Election 2016 in Global Context: Ghana

This article is the second in a series about how foreign media cover the election. Read the first article about Israel here.

This edition of our election series focuses on Ghana and its media’s coverage of the 2016 United States presidential election. Ghana is also experiencing an intense presidential campaign, and is a relatively new democracy with one of the few free presses on the African continent.

The outcome of the American presidential election is of interest to Ghanaians and to the Ghanaian government, because of the important diplomatic relationship between the two countries that has bearings on the completion of key infrastructure in Ghana. The latest of these initiatives that could be impacted is the $547 million compact between Ghana and the U.S.’ Millennium Challenge Corporation.

There are currently 135 newspapers published in Ghana, 16 of which are independent and nine publish daily. Each of these outlets covers the U.S. election in some capacity, whether it’s through a tab on its homepage, or in the “foreign” or “world” sections. While the Ghanaian press is considered “free” by Freedom House standards, the top two newspapers in Ghana, the Daily Graphic and the Ghanaian Times, are state-run outlets with pro-government tendencies.

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The Ghanian Times.

Additionally, the media in Ghana still rely heavily on radio for broadcasting information to Ghanaians. While radio stations still deliver the news over their airwaves, they also run the top social media accounts followed by Ghanaians. Two Ghanian radio stations, Joy 99.7 and Citi 97.3collectively have one million Twitter followers and tweet frequently about both the U.S. and Ghanaian elections.

According to a 2013 Pew Survey, 83 percent of Ghanaians hold a favorable view of America. 38 percent of Ghanaians reported the importance of having strong ties with the U.S., compared to 23 percent believing in strengthening ties with China.

Stories from major Ghanaian outlets have covered investigations into the Trump Foundation, conspiracy theorists and Hillary Clinton’s health, and President Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. There are also a number of foreign correspondents working in Ghana who write about the U.S. election for Ghanaian media. Stacey Knott, a journalist for Ghana’s Pulse.com covering the US election, wrote a column in February about the impact that the election will have on the country.

The University of Ghana’s Dr. Etse Sikanku, an expert in communications, says that while the greatest change of this election for Ghanaians is that President Barack Obama is not running for office, however, she believes that Hillary Clinton “is very well known within the political and public sphere.”

Sikanku also cited concerns regarding presidential candidate Donald Trump’s position diplomacy. “Based on the act that he seems to have a more protectionist policy when it comes to America’s relationship with the world,” she said in a recent article by Pulse, a Ghanian News Outlet.

As Ghana’s election is happening simultaneously with its U.S. counterpart, there is comparatively less coverage of the U.S. election than in other countries. However, lessons learned from American journalism’s legacy of election coverage have impacted Ghanian journalists’ reporting on their own elections.

In 2014, the government of Ghana partnered with the Coalition for Open Democracy to send Ghanaian journalists to the University of Pittsburgh to meet with professors and American journalists, and to learn about the media’s coverage of the American presidential election. In early February, U.S. Embassy Accra’s public affairs section hosted a virtual workshopto strengthen media skills in Election Reporting.” During the workshop, speakers from the International Center for Journalism and private media consultants taught participants how to analyze speeches and polls, as well as the importance of a free and independent press.

Ghana’s media is freer than most others on the continent, lending importance to nearly all media coverage that occurs in Ghana. There might currently be less coverage of the U.S. election by Ghanaian media than outlets in other countries. Yet, the impact of American journalism on the very fabric of Ghanaian media is evident through the growth of free press throughout the country.

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