May Roundup: How Fact-check Ghana settled the Tema Motorway Debate and Exposed Mahama’s Gaffe on Ghana’s Press Freedom Ranking

In mid may, the Ministry of Road and Highways announced that the Tema Motorway Interchange will be opened to traffic, adding that it would broadcast directional animations on all TV channels across the nation to guide motorists and the travelling public.

The announcement erupted a fiery political debate on both the traditional media and social media platforms among political communicators and supporters of the two leading political parties in Ghana, the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). The debate centered on who, between President Akufo Addo and former President John Mahama (who is also now flagbearer of NDC,), should be credited with the massive road project, as the implementation of the project had lasted the tenures of both personalities.

At the height of the debate, Fact-check Ghana reviewed many reports by the media on when the project commenced and reports on preparatory surveys conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the agency entrusted by the Japanese government from whom the John Mahama-led government had requested for a grant for the Motorway in 2013. The team further reviewed the signed contract between the government of Ghana and the government of Japan in 2017 under the Akufo-Addo-led government that made available an aid of 6,459 million yen for two programmes in Ghana of which the Tema Motorway roundabout was included.

The team finally intercepted and settled the debate with a detailed report establishing that the NDC Mahama-led government did the initial work and negotiated for the grant while the NPP Akufo-Addo-led government signed the grant and executed the project.

Earlier in the month of May, specifically the World Press Day on May 3, the former President and flagbearer of the NDC, John Dramani Mahama, delivered a speech on his social media pages addressing press freedom and the safety of journalists situation in Ghana. In his speech, he bemoaned the deteriorating freedom of the press under the incumbent government and touted his governments records on press freedom, stating that Ghana ranked number one in Africa and 28th in the global ranking on press freedom index during his tenure.

Fact-check Ghana subjected the claim to verification and produced a report that debunked the former President’s claim that Ghana ranked number one in Africa on press freedom. The report indicated the Ghana achieved that feat rather in 2018 and never under the tenure of the former President which spanned 2013-2016.

Few days after the former President’s gaffe on the Ghana’s Press Freedom rankings, the Minority of Leader of Ghana’s Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu, accused the Electoral Commission (EC) of receiving personal protective equipment (PPEs) from the government to aid them (EC) in compiling a new voters’ register in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EC denied the Minority Leader’s allegation in a statement. The Minority Leader also issued a statement to affirm his allegation. This resulted in a release of statements and counter statements between the EC and the Minority Leader which generated debates in the media and the public space, leaving many in doubt what the facts of the matter were.

Fact-check Ghana intervened in the debate by interviewing some officials of the EC and reviewing a three-hour news analysis programme on which the Minority Leader claimed an official of the EC had admitted to his alleagtion. Fact-check Ghana concluded that the Minority Leader’s claim was false as the official of the EC did not state that they received PPEs from the government.

On COVID-19, Ghana witnessed a fast-rising coronavirus cases in the months of April and May. This had resulted in the Greater Accra Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) directing Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to make the wearing of nose masks in public compulsory in Accra.

As a measure to control the spread of the virus, many types of nose masks were produced by different individuals and groups. So in circulation was both the surgical nose masks and the locally produced cloth masks. The challenge however was that some of the masks did not meet the standard specifications which had the potential rather aggravate the COVID situation. Fact-check Ghana produced a report presenting basic facts about nose masks and indicating the type the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Drugs Authorities have approved.

The report also included safety tips about using nose masks which included ensuring one’s mouth and nose are fully covered, allowing for breathing without any restriction to avoid suffocation, and disinfecting and washing reusable homemade masks regularly.

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