Ghana faces a major threat as it heads to a crucial poll on December 7, 2024, to elect a successor to President Nana Akufo-Addo. The danger has nothing to do with the forced choice between the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). Rather, it has to do with the deliberate manipulation of information by these two political parties to disenfranchise millions of voters and overturn their verdict at the poll.

Our world is presently caught in a vortex of information disorder created by a few self-serving individuals amplified by some innocent people to dictate narratives in their favour. Information manipulation is as old as science and as dangerous as cancer if it is not attended to promptly. We can pretend we are not in danger and choose not to do anything about the situation, but this would come at a great cost to everyone and no one would be spared.

The Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center defined information disorder to mean the many “ways our digital environment is polluted with misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation (MDM).” For a non-profit organisation, First Draft News, information disorder is a “collective term to capture the range of disinformation, misinformation, malinformation, rumours, myths, conspiracy theories, hyperpartisan content, propaganda and manipulated media that contribute to the spread of false or misleading information.”

Researchers Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakshan identified three general types of information disorder – misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation. While misinformation occurs when mistakes are made such as inaccurate photo captions, dates, statistics, and translations, disinformation happens when content is fabricated or audio-visual content is deliberately manipulated. Malinformation on the other hand occurs where there is a deliberate publication of private information for personal or corporate reasons other than the promotion of the public interest. While disinformation and malinformation are created intentionally and deliberately to cause harm, misinformation is not.

There is, however, a thin borderline between misinformation and disinformation and also between malinformation and disinformation. There are four key elements involved in information disorder and these are the (a) originator, (b) content, (c) target audience, and (d) medium. Also, information disorder revolves around three stages which are; (a) the creation stage, which includes deciding which content to create and creating it, (b) the production stage, which entails selecting the packaging format for the content and packaging it, and the (c) dissemination stage, includes the selection of the ways to share the content and sharing it.

Information disorder has grave implications for governance, elections and human rights. Also, it affects the general health and well-being of citizens as well as resilience and humanitarian responses during emergencies. A World Health Organisation (WHO) report in April 2021, revealed that at least 800 people may have died during the Covid-19 period due to misinformation related to the virus.

“At its extreme, death can be the tragic outcome of what the World Health Organisation has termed the infodemic, an overabundance of information – some accurate, some not – that spreads alongside a disease outbreak. False information runs the gamut, from discrediting the threat of COVID-19 to conspiracy theories that vaccines could alter human DNA,” the world body said.

The Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder noted in a 2021 report that “information disorder is a crisis that exacerbates all other crises. When bad information becomes as prevalent, persuasive, and persistent as good information, it creates a chain reaction of harm.”

With barely ten months to the 2024 Presidential and Parliament Elections in Ghana, the spread of false news has begun in the media, including social media. The two leading political parties have shown that they will stop at nothing to throw mud at each other as they canvass for the support of the Ghanaian electorate. What is startling is that key political actors in the country are also purveyors of false information.

Addressing Ghanaians in February 2024, the Vice-President and the NPP flagbearer, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia made some false and misleading claims to cheers and applause from party supporters. One of the claims he made was that Ghana was ranked as the 6th e-commerce market in Africa by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in its business-to-consumer (B2C) E-commerce Index. The claim was found to be false because the UNCTAD B2C E-commerce Index 2020, which was the latest report at the time Dr Bawumia gave the speech, ranked Ghana as the fifth B2C e-commerce market in Africa and the 81st globally, with an index score of 51.9%.

Also, the NDC flagbearer, John Dramani Mahama has been making some false claims as he galvanises support across the country. Speaking to the Ghana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) on February 8, 2024, the ex-Ghanaian leader said the government of President Nana Akufo-Addo did not increase the cocoa producer price for farmers during its first term between 2017 and 2020. This claim was found to be false because COCOBOD data showed President Nana Akufo-Addo increased the cocoa producer prices twice in his first term, during the 2019/20 and 2020/21 cocoa crop seasons.

There are equally false and misleading claims made by other leading members of the NPP and NDC in the media on daily basis. It is not clear what these parties intend to achieve with these false claims, but what is obvious is that there is a coveted price in sight and each would do whatever it takes to grab it, including spreading false information to influence narratives in their favour.

Also, there have been instances where NPP and NDC sympathisers have created media products, including infographics and other images to harm the reputation of their political opponents. Many of these media products shared on social media, especially Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) contain comments wrongly attributed to key political figures. Have you seen images of the various comments attributed to leading NDC members on Mr Mahama’s 24-hour economy proposal? The NDC issued a disclaimer labelling the images as “fake.” Also, did you see the image that surfaced on social media purportedly designed by Accra-based Joy FM with a statement that head porters (locally called Kayayei) use Bluetooth these days to transport goods instead of head pans? The statement was falsely attributed to Dr Bawumia during his address at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA).

The fake news industry is thriving in Ghana because journalists who are expected to protect the sanctity of the information ecosystem are accomplices in the creation and spread of false information. The information ecosystem, according to the Journal of the American Society for Information Science, [entails] “all structures, entities, and agents related to the flow of semantic information relevant to a research domain, as well as the information itself.”

It is pathetic to observe the helplessness of some Ghanaian journalists who do not know that certain claims made on their shows are false. Many of the false claims in Ghana’s media were made before journalists who should have flagged these comments for inaccuracy and proceeded to put out the truth. However, these media personalities would nod gleefully and ignorantly to these false comments and broadcast same to their audience.

Ghanaians need not place any more responsibilities on media organisations that have taken a political stand other than to stick to the facts of stories they put out irrespective of the political party or actors involved. However, a media organisation which claims to be neutral would be expected to uphold high ethical and verification standards in its reportage.

A recent example was when multiple media reports claimed Ghana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey told Ghanaians complaining about the high cost of rent in the country to “go to Canada and see” what pertains there. These online news portals, Ghanacelebrities, Ghanafuo, Myinfo, and, Nkonkonsa attributed the viral comment made by the country’s minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Mavis Hawa Koomson to Ms Ayorkor Botchwey.

Ms Hawa Koomson told Ghanaians to be grateful to the government of President Nana Akufo-Addo for the economic progress made so far when she appeared on the morning show of Accra-based Onua FM on February 20, 2024. “I heard someone saying that today things are expensive in Ghana. S/he should go to Canada. Last year [2023] August when I went to Canada the rent for a month was over 2,000 Canadian dollars. That’s for a single room, not even a chamber and hall,” she said in a mixed English and Twi dialect.

Hours later the four online news portals mentioned above published various reports attributing the viral comment to Ms Ayorkor Botchwey. However, one of the originators of the false story, apologised to the Foreign Affairs minister on February 23, 2024, for the poor report. “…[we] wish to render an unqualified apology to the foreign minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway over a publication made earlier by our news outlet. The report claimed the foreign minister had pointed out that it was far more expensive [in Canada] than Ghana to rent even a single room there—more than 2,000 Canadian dollars a month.”

“This was false as our subsequent findings revealed she did not make such a statement on any platform. In the pursuit of delivering accurate and timely information, we unfortunately fell short of our standards, and we deeply regret any confusion or misinformation that may have resulted from our report,” added.

Although the other news portals that falsely attributed the comment to Ms Ayorkor Botchwey have not apologised or pulled down their stories yet, the evidence has shown the comment was made by Ms Hawa Koomson.

With the current state of things, no one can say with certainty when the spread of false news in Ghana will end, particularly as it prepares for elections later this year. What is apparent is that many false news would be created, produced and disseminated to influence the outcome of the election. Nonetheless, this is not a declaration of a state of helplessness. The media, independent think tanks, government institutions and Ghanaians must work together to tackle and reduce the impact of fake news now, before, during, and after the general election.

To address the spread of fake news in Ghana, it is suggested that media institutions would need to build alliances with like-minded organisations, especially fact-checking institutions to provide them with the technical know-how to be able to identify false information and verify same. Also, Ghanaian journalists would need training in ways to fact-check claims made before, during and after the election. The other suggestions are, (a) we will need to undertake a media campaign against fake news and the government as well as public-centred institutions would need to make funding available for this activity, (d) journalists, political actors and public institutions would need to prioritise research, (e) journalists would need to be accountability-focused to be able to hold politicians to account to their constituents, and (f) there is a need to create a coalition of fact-checking institutions in Ghana ahead of the election to provide alternative and verified news to readers in the country. The media in Ghana would need to prioritise interviewing experts on major local and global issues or pair experts with politicians to balance the presentation of facts on their shows.

I agree with Courtney C. Radsch PhD, a Postdoctoral research fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, when he said there is an urgent need to “cultivate systems, institutions, and norms that enable quality and useful information to flourish and address the interplay between the technological infrastructure in which information and media systems are embedded.”

We must remember that as leaders, organisations, families, and journalists, we owe a sacred duty to our constituents, not only to inform them, but to ensure that the information they receive is right, good, and true at all material times.


The author, A. Kwabena Brakopowers, is a private legal practitioner, journalist, and essayist who has written extensively on education, international relations, legal matters, social, political, and economic issues of major concern to all Ghanaians. You can reach him at

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.