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Press Conferences Should Be Held At Regular Intervals—Study Recommends   
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Presidential press conferences should be held at regular intervals to improve journalistic engagement, encourage accessibility and deepen democracy, a new study on the recently held press conference by President Mahama has recommended.

The research study, the first available empirical analysis of a presidential press conference in Ghana, was conducted by Dr Etse Sikanku of the University of Ghana and Kwaku Botwe of the National Film and Television Institute. T

he study systematically analyzed all the 26 questions posed by Ghanaian journalists to the President earlier this month.

The researchers sough to find out the following: the media organizations who had the chance to ask questions, the topical areas/sectors of national concern covered by journalists, relevance of the questions, structure or composition of questions in terms of specificity tone of the question in terms of civility and politeness, follow – up question and the body language of journalists – revealed some insightful facts.

Findings from the report showed that, majority (69.2 %) of the questions asked by journalists were issues of relevance/national concern, whiles close to a third (26.9 %) of the questions were deemed not so relevant.

Journalists interestingly did not ask questions about sports and agricultural sectors. The flagrant disregard for these sectors was so “loud” considering Ghana’s inability to qualify for CHAN 2016 and previous rumpuses emanating from the sports sector, coupled with the major employment opportunities the agricultural sector provides for a growing economy like Ghana.

Also insightful was that majority (26.9%) of the questions focused on politics, the economy and national security.

In analyzing the structure of the questions, the study revealed that 42.3% of the questions were too broad and not specific enough.  “One of the central functions of the media is to hold government accountable for their actions. By asking broad and non-specific questions journalists are hampered in their efforts to fulfill this mandate” the report noted.

When it came to the body language of journalists at the press conference, the report observed that only a few (11.5%) journalists did not demonstrate politeness and civility in asking their questions, as they did it with their hands in their pocket.

However, the demeanor of most (88.5%) journalists was civil polite and respectful. The researchers said civility was important in any democracy in order to encourage deliberation and avoid confrontational tones.

The researchers are recommending that press conferences be held regularly than is currently done, to help promote direct presidential engagement with journalists and by extension, the general public.

In addition, they recommended journalists researched well in order to eliminate ambiguous questions in future press conferences, to hold the government accountable for their stewardship as they fulfill their mandate.
Source: Nana Kwame O. Fordjour

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