The Goof, the Bad and the Ugly: "Indecent" Language Use on Ghanaian Radio

  • Margaret Ivy Amoakohene University of Ghana
  • Jemima Asabea Anderson University of Ghana
  • Jemima Opare-Henaku



Free speech and media freedoms were reinforced in Ghana with the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law in 2001. As a result, the citizen’s voice, which was hitherto muted, has grown louder as Ghanaians feel emboldened to contribute to national discourse in the media (especially local language radio programmes) without fear of the Criminal Libel Law. However, concerns have been raised about indecent language which has become pervasive in the Ghanaian media. This study examined indecent language on radio in Ghana. The study adopted the quantitative approach and content analysed data gathered from selected Ghanaian radio stations from May to September, 2016. This was the period just before the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections in Ghana. The findings of the study revealed six types of indecent language on Ghanaian radio and noted that insults and offensive comments ranked the highest whilst expressions promoting divisiveness ranked lowest.


La liberté de parole et la liberté des médias ont été renforcées au Ghana avec l'abrogation de la loi sur la diffamation pénale en 2001. En conséquence, la voix des citoyens, qui était jusqu'ici en sourdine s’est accrue, les Ghanéens se sentant enhardis de contribuer aux débats nationaux dans les médias (notamment les émissions de radio en langue locale) sans craindre de devenir la proie de la loi sur la diffamation pénale. Cependant, à la suite de cela, le langage indécent est également devenu omniprésent sur les ondes ghanéennes et est devenu une source de préoccupation pour beaucoup. Cette étude a donc examiné l'utilisation de la langue indécente à la radio au Ghana. L'étude a adopté l'approche quantitative et analysé les données recueillies auprès de stations de radio ghanéennes sélectionnées de mai à septembre 2016. Les résultats de l'étude ont révélé six types de langage indécent à la radio ghanéenne.


Keywords: media, indecent language, Ghanaian radio, local language broadcast, politics


Author Biographies

Margaret Ivy Amoakohene, University of Ghana

Margaret Ivy Amoakohene is an Associate Professor at the Department of Communication Studies, University of Ghana where she has since September 1992 taught Public Relations, Qualitative Research Methods and Mass Communication. She has published extensively in many national and international journals. She has held many positions in both the University of Ghana and Ghanaian national life serving on several boards and committees and actively participating in national discussions and debates. She serves on the Council of the Institute of Public Relations (IPR), Ghana and previously served as its Honorary Secretary and Vice-President. Prof. Margaret Ivy Amoakohene has participated in and presented papers on various aspects of communication, the environment, the media, public relations, politics, governance, and women and gender at many seminars, workshops and conferences both nationally and internationally.


Jemima Asabea Anderson, University of Ghana

Jemima Asabea Anderson is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of of English at the University of Ghana, where she teaches courses in Sociolinguistics, Pragmatics, English in Ghana and World Englishes. She is co-editor of Crossing Linguistic Borders in Post-Colonial Anglophone Africa. Some of her articles have appeared in Journal of Pragmatics, Journal of Politeness Research, Sociolinguistics Studies, Legon Journal of the Humanities, Linguistic Atlantica and Journal of African Media Studies. Her research interests include Language and the Media in Ghana, Codification of Ghanaian English, Language and Migration in Ghana, Cross-cultural Pragmatics, Pragmatics of non-native varieties of English, Politeness/Impoliteness in English in Ghana, and Language Choice and language usage in specific domains in Ghana.

Jemima Opare-Henaku

Jemima Opare-Henaku is currently the Communication Officer for Civic Response, a leading natural resource and environmental (NRE) governance policy advocacy organisation in Ghana. She holds a master’s degree in Communication Studies from the University of Ghana, Legon, with specialization in Multimedia Broadcasting and Advertising.

Her research interests include media and language, media ethics, media effects, and digital media.