Ghanaians Call Out CNN for Misrepresenting Their Country in Post-Election Coverage

A supermarket in Accra, Ghana. Creative Commons image by Flickr user Michael Sean Gallagher.

A supermarket in Accra, Ghana. Creative Commons image by Flickr user Michael Sean Gallagher.

Following a successful and peaceful election on December 7, Twitter was awash on Sunday, December 11 with messages from Ghanaians saying that they had attended to church to give thanks to God for the smooth outcome or to celebrate with the winning party.

However, a tweet from Ghanaian sports journalist Gary Al-Smith (@garyalsmith) struck a much different note. Gary had published a screenshot of part of an article written by American broadcaster CNN about Ghana's election in which the country was characterized as suffering food shortages. In his tweet to his over 166,000 followers, using the hashtag #CNNGetItRight he said:

Gary was disappointed that the article written by CNN did not give a true picture about the economy of Ghana. In the second paragraph of the article, it read, in reference to President-elect Nana Akufo-Addo:

The national economy will be Akufo-Addo’s major challenge. Oil reserves were discovered off the coast of Ghana in 2007, but Ghanaians struggle to obtain food and day-to-day services. Rolling blackouts are common and citizens often stand in long line to obtain products.

The article misrepresents reality on the ground in Ghana. Ghanaians generally do not struggle for food and day-to-day services, and they have access to enough food and resources. If you were to see food-related queues these days, it might be to buy the local delicacy called “Waakye,” which is a favourite dish made from rice mixed with beans — but the long queue is a sign of the quality of the Waakye, not because there's a critical food shortage.

In the past, there were challenges with access to power due to an energy crisis, but currently, Ghanaians have access to power and do not experience rolling blackouts as depicted by CNN.

Gary's tweet sparked lots of anger from Ghanaians against CNN, and many responded ridiculing CNN for the inaccurate coverage. Other Ghanaian journalists, such as Nana Ama Agyemang (@JustNanaAma) of Citi FM, tweeted:

The first lady of Ghana, Lordina Mahama (@firstladyGhana), told CNN to report accurately about Ghana:

Some local media houses also picked up the story. Myjoyonline exposed even more errors in the article, pointing out that it was written by two authors who were neither in Ghana nor Ghanaian:

The errors brought ridicule from Ghanaians, who got even more annoyed when it emerged that the article was written by a Nigerian journalist based in Lagos, Stephanie Busari, and another based in Atlanta, Ralph Ellis.

The article, among other errors, also incorrectly said the people of the country are ‘Ghanians’, instead of ‘Ghanaians’.

In addition, the story even got the final results wrong. It said: “Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party won 5,180,389 to 4,193,861 or about 55% to 45%, reported representatives at the EC National Collation Centre which verified results sheets from 241 constituencies.”

This was inaccurate because the EC's account of 241 constituencies gave Nana Addo 54.69%, and John Mahama 43.60%, so it's surprising the network quoted that number.

Another factual error said that Ghana’s president-elect, Nana Akufo-Addo had contested a general election in 1998, when elections were actually contested in 1996 and 2000.

Other international media houses including the BBC, far-right American website Breitbart and the Russian-government funded broadcaster RT picked up the story.

Efo Dela cynically speculated the decision making that went into the article:

Eventually, CNN, in response to the tweets, corrected the errors in the article and indicated in the editor's note that the previous article did not give a true picture of Ghana's economy. Jemila Abdulai (@Jabdulai), a writer and a blogger, tweeted the screenshot of the corrected article:

Mawuli Tsikata (@MawuliTsikata), an online manager for CitiFm, asked CNN to apologise:

All in all, many Ghanaians are happy they were able to put pressure on CNN to correct the poor reportage about the country, but it's unfortunate that it happened in the first place.

Update 18/12/2016: A CNN spokesperson forwarded along the following statement:”This story should never have been published in its original form. CNN’s editorial procedures were not followed, and we have thoroughly reviewed our internal processes to ensure this does not happen again. The article has been corrected and Stephanie Busari’s byline was removed because she was not involved in writing this piece. We apologize for any offence caused.”


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