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Feature Article of Sunday, 19 June 2011

Columnist: The herald

Et tu Daily Guide: The Pot Calling The Kettle Black?

A common knowledge in law states that “the guilt of an accused person cannot be presumed and that they must be assumed to be innocent until proven otherwise”

Since the story of Nana Akua Amoah aka Mzbel, became public, a lot of people have made unsavoury comments about her, describing her in so many ways, with some using unprintable words against her. It is a classical case of giving a dog a bad name and hang it. It never hurts to get a second opinion.

The Daily Guide was one of the first media houses to break the story. For whatever reason I can’t fathom, the twist given to the story suggested that Mzbel was guilty of the offence brought against her, even before she could be tried and convicted by a competent court of jurisdiction.

Since the matter is in court, and I don’t want to be cited for contempt, I would tread cautiously and stay clear of the substantive case before the Court.

The media is a noble beast; it’s unflinching and comprehensive coverage of the military dictatorship by journalists who defied all odds, is what ended the military regime, and we are now enjoying the fruit of democracy.

Lately, there has been a steep decline in the standard of excellence in the media reporting; there is no longer any real sense of decency, responsibility, and the statutory obligations to operate in the public interest, but rather a burning and an avaricious desire for money.

In its editorial of Saturday, June 11, 2011 headlined: “A Mzbel Rumour”, Daily Guide seemed to create the impression that some media houses were prejudicing the case before it is decided upon by a court.

However, in the same editorial, paragraph six states: “We are also aware about the behind -the-scenes maneuvers to have the police temper justice with mercy, which is being spearheaded by the Diana Hopeson-led Musician Union of Ghana (MUSIGA)”

Yet in the last paragraph of the said editorial it is stated that “we are not by the foregone suggesting that the suspect has been found guilty already; but only asking that using subterfuges such as spreading a rumour that the Police have been paid to destroy the lady in question, sounds puerile and makes a mockery of our country’s resolve to function as a modern and civilized society. Need we allow the law to take its course when a citizen flouts the law, regardless of the standing of defaulters?” Interestingly, one wonders if this is not another attempt to jeopardize the case, because, if Mzbel is found not guilty and discharged, won’t the public think that “the behind-the-scenes maneuvers” are what got her off the hook?

This smells funny and I’m not going to eat it.

The paper claims that MUSIGA is pulling strings, and pressing the buttons behind the scenes to have Mzbel released and the case made a foolish one.The Daily Guide has, by its posture since the unfortunate incident, already passed judgement and condemned Mzbel, yet it is telling others to be decorous in their reportage and discussions on the issue.

The first story the paper carried on the incident was headlined “Mzbel in Police Cells for Beating a Policeman” That story was one-sided, ignoring the journalistic standard and responsibility where both parties in a story must be given the right to a fair representation.

The reportage on each issue must be fair and balanced to all parties concerned. But everything in the Daily Guide’s story was “according to the Police”. How about the three (3) persons involved in the incident, namely, Mzbel, Maxwell Mensah, and Emmanuel Edem Nordzor?

The Daily Guide conveniently decided to refer to the other two as accomplice, which meaning carries a different connotation. Even if the two are accomplices, they are entitled to be given a hearing in the publication.

Strangely, the policeman who was caught in the mess was not interviewed. How can The Daily Guide ignore the version of the main actor in the story?

The law is not made for one person, so one day all of us can find ourselves on the wrong side of it, either consciously, unconsciously, intentionally, or just out of coincidence.

The Newspaper, in the opening of its first story on the issue, depicted Mzbel as pathetic. It said: “Celebrated Ghanaian songstress Mzbel spent the weekend weeping in Police Cells”.

How did The Daily Guide get to know that she was weeping in police cell? Instead of sympathizing with her about her predicament even if we are to assume without admitting that she was guilty, the paper was making fun of the matter. Do you make a mockery of someone who is already in the pit?

When the case was called on Thursday, June, 9. Journalists and members of MUSIGA, who went to the Motor Court to capture shots of Mzbel, were disappointed because the case was called the previous day at the Human Rights Court, and the accused persons granted bail.

When the case was first called on Monday at the Motor Court, where the bail application was rejected, the Lawyers for the accused persons filed a written application at the Human Rights Court, and the case was fixed for hearing on Wednesday. They were subsequently granted bail by the Human Rights Court and so did not turn up for hearing on Thursday at the Motor Court.

The Daily Guide knew these facts very well, but chose to throw every responsible standard of reporting required of a media house to the dogs and mischievously decided to carry a story headlined “Mzbel Dodges Media” Isn’t this a manifest indication that Mzbel’s career is being railroaded by overzealous journalists who, by their actions, despise progress?

No wonder The Daily Guide was built on personalities; former President Jerry John Rawlings, had a fair share of its bashing. It consciously dedicated every page of the paper to denigrate, insult and ridicule the man, so I am not surprised at what it is doing to Mzbel.

Every personality that sells must be exploited and torn into pieces for profit, whether what it is writing is right, or wrong. It is said that while advising the Cat, also advice the fish. Mzbel must also introspectively look at her life and ask herself whether she has been a good example and a role model for the younger generation to emulate.

In this part of the world what she is doing has been perceived as the preserve of men, for which most parents would frown upon it if their daughters came home to tell them, “I want to Rap”.

And to you Mzbel, you must always exemplify yourself. Live above reproach, because there is no difference between your private and public life. It is just a thin line, because you are a star, a brand which needs a strong character to manage. The Daily Guide must allow the case to be decided by the law court, which is the appropriate place for the adjudication of disputes.

“In any case, why would someone want Mzbel destroyed in such a crazy manner? A young lady who has chosen to be a sex-symbol should be allowed to lead her life even if we don’t want our children to emulate her lifestyle”, the paper said. Is her private life now on trial, this is cheap shot.

We must be careful how we point accusing fingers at others, because the rest of the fingers will be pointing at us. What can be said of Daily Guide’s sister paper, ‘News One”? is it not a tabloid established to exploit for profit the nudity of women?

Sex sells, so I might want to pardon them, but, hey, aren’t newspapers supposed to educate, inform and entertain? What is disheartening and shocking, however, is that the paper is being managed by a respectable woman, who ought to know better and set example for the younger ones, yet she sits unconcerned whilst her staff do their own thing. Robbers, they say, find nothing wrong in robbery except when it happens to them. The Daily Guide must give Mzbel a break.

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