Feature Article of Thursday, 20 May 2010
Columnist: Twumasi, Patrick
Mistakes of the dead are examples for the living, so the wise saying goes. But to live and yet commit the mistakes of the dead is to be considered for living but dead. Is it not prudent to look at what tripped a person, than look at where the person fell?
Recently, utterances on the electronic media, especially, radio leaves the traces of questions, such as, whether, the fraying lines of cohesion will be able to hold Ghana together up until 2012 and beyond?. It is largely established, the print media is the life blood or serves as the oxygen of television especially radio in Ghana. Starting from 6 am to 10 am in the morning on Mondays to Fridays, newspaper reviews form the main programme schedule on radio. Saturdays’ has also been added to the day of reviews, this time the focus is on major news items that made the headlines during the week. This indeed excludes a radio station or two. Other radio stations make the extra effort to meta-physically probe the news papers or headlines for the day late in the afternoon. These private radio stations, do empanel members from the various political parties. Some other panelist includes, social commentators, and of course professional Journalist who without remorse go to their wits end to defend political parties, and their policies. Public relations melt down at its best.
Nevertheless, Political Science and other field of study wholly and severally embrace free expression, which psychologically is known as free association. This necessitates the release of tension in the mind to prevent intrapsychic conflict. Freedom of expression as defined by the Greek is, expressing what is true and naturally exist. The entity that is against free expression should possibly be asked to give not a reason, but reasons. Hence expressing one’s free will is one thing, and whether what is being expressed is true and naturally exist is another issue. Therefore, views expressed by panelists on these radio stations, cum phone-ins can not be stopped, but care must be taken, in order not to throw caution to the air. Indeed, some of the panelist are emotional, overly passionate, and wild in their allegations. Simply inflammatory. In such instances, it calls for a reflection on a statement once made by a humanitarian worker at Rwanda during the 1994 genocide; “it reminds me of the fragility of mankind and the relations between people”.
The media similar to the proverbial fire, it can help preserve society, and at the same instance destroy. The media has been pointed as a large element in creating mistrust in Rwanda. It is a held belief that, the fourth estate of the realm is said to have disseminated inflammatory articles and hateful political cartoons and printed jokes such as “a good Tutsi is a dead Tutsi”. These negative contributions, led to disintegration through a series of totally senseless incidents of bloodbath that reached their apogee. Some newspaper headlines and subsequent comments during news reviews push for the question, what are the intended purposes? The newspaper might be silent, but the radio stations and their panelist will amplify it. Remember most of these radio networks are on the internet.
At the turn of the millennium, a communicationist, Hugo de burg, claimed that, “Freedom of expression” is all but very well, but for an opinion to be well grounded it needs, information, verifiable facts and contracting views”. The communicationist has requested a lot of brooding prior to comments. Does this ring a bell to our social commentators? Some unguarded statements which go to polarize and paralyse society has been allowed to stroll freely, bereft of the possible consequences, can be very fatal.
Additionally, the recent unpass that ensued between the Techniman traditional area and the Asante Kingdom clearly gave us away on the cracks beneath our national psyche, and the possible distractive potentials of the Ghanaian media. Some social commentators exposed petrol to the already volcanic situation. Why do we always want to be the very ones’ who lead our spirits wrong? This brings to the fore that, unless there is a genuine transformation, which stems from Ghanaians themselves in this precarious direction, we would be heading towards a dysfunctional, fragile and fractious climax. It also calls on the various media houses, and their choice of panelists who cannot, but opt for the apt self-censorship of any sensitive issue. The burden is upon the media to distil tensions in what ever form in the country and not contrary, the brewer.
The 2008 general elections was a blink point. No society, indeed human society is immune to conflict. Who would have thought Cote de’ voire will be in the state it is now, but it real. And if Ghanaians care to know, the Headquarters of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has been moved form Cote de’ voire. The happenings of Bawku in the Upper East, Dagbon (Yendi), in the Northern, and other parts of the country, such as Techniman and Asante, tell all and sundry, forgetting the past is the surest way to ensure that a similar tragedy will occur in the future.
Besides, comments from various quarters of politicians, Social commentators, and their disgruntled, foot soldiers are vivid, the 2012 general elections is a make or break. In this seeming discourse the media is the vehicle, which would carry the whispers, nods and winks to the Ghanaian populace. Considering the negative impact of the Rwandan media in the march-up to the genocide, we should be asking ourselves in Ghana, whether we are infallible? For months unend, day in and day out, Hutu radio stations in Rwanda incited hate speech at the Tutsi minority – referring to them as “cockroaches” that should be crushed and killed. What was the catalyst here? Is it not the media? The end result was the failure to act decisively and firmly by the State Authorities led to an incident that shook and disgusted the world to its core. The Medias’ quest for high revenue, should not lead it to allow itself to be used as the propeller of intolerance, and the repetitive use of derogatory slogans and songs.
Inspite of all the guidelines on media practice in Ghana, many houses are breaking these rules and regulations with impunity. The National Media commission (NMC) and the National Communications Authority (NCA) should bear their teeth to instill discipline, law and order in the media. For the reason, most of them do nothing, but contribute to tensions. This has often ended them in crippling barrage of lawsuits resulting in hefty fines. The NMC and NCA should prevent the media from leading the country hook, line and sinker into the mud. Most of these stations or networks should have their mission statements queried.
Despite the existence of the Ghana Journalist Associations (GJA) Code of Conduct, the media will always prefer to opt for the spring left in their stride to be mistrust, tension, and bitterness. The authorities overseeing the Ghanaian media landscape should roll up their sleeves to stem the tied, in order for Ghana not to reiterate the philosophy of the absurd “Had I known” syndrome. The 2012 general elections is where the real test to determine whether Ghana, and for that matter Ghanaians, are immune, from media engineered conflicts. Remember, in the classroom, lessons are taken before tests are conducted. But in real life, tests are faced before lessons are learnt.
“These commandments that I give you today are neither too high nor too far for you. They are not in heaven that you should say; “Who will go up to heaven to get these commandments that we may hear them and put them into practice” Neither are they at the other side of the sea for you to say; “who will cross to the other side and bring them to us, that we may hear them and put them into practice” On the contrary, my word is very near you; it is already in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can put it into practice. Deut 30:11-14.
Rwanda is near for Ghana to learn from. There is much knowledge in reading and much more wisdom in listening.