Feature Article of Wednesday, 3 August 2011
Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta
By Kwesi Atta Sakyi
The work of the media is to inform, educate or enlighten, entertain and to champion noble causes by speaking on behalf of the marginalized, aggrieved or oppressed. What trend do we see in the Ghanaian media over the last decade? The explosion of the information highway, the increase in ICT facilities such as the internet and mobile phone has led to bedlam and media haywire. Many gutter/yellow tabloids and FM radio stations have become vehicles for lies, insults, innuendoes, wicked propaganda and medium for creating divisions in the country. It seems as though the whole of Ghana was engulfed in a war of words with no modicum of regard for media ethics, professionalism and patriotism. Each of the media houses wants to outdo and outgun each other by being the first to report a news scoop and in the process they rush to the press without verifying or validating their news items with independent sources.
In the process, we find many embarrassing situations whereby some media houses under threat of being sued, have recanted or retracted their news items. It is important to state here that the National Media Council should take a strong stand against their members who err. Despite the enactment of the Freedom Of Information Act, the onus is on news editors and broadcasters to exercise self discipline and self restraint when reporting news. They are supposed to thoroughly research their news items by having views from opposite parties. They should observe objectivity and refrain from sensationalism and avoid creating a media circus. Right now, Ghana has become a theatre for media theatrics and we are a laughing stock in the Ecowas region. Our media houses should evince some form of patriotism by not denigrating our former presidents and incumbent president. These presidents are national symbols and if we tend to ridicule them, then we are spineless. In the Bible, we remember the story of Noah who got drunk and was naked. His son Ham laughed at his father and he was cursed but the other brothers who covered their father’s nakedness were blessed (Genesis 9:18-27). It is utter crass silliness to poke fun at your sitting President in the media because of his physical disabilities or infirmities. No man is perfect. In the USA, during the 2nd World War, their president, Franklin Roosevelt suffered polio and was in a wheel chair but he performed. The current Finance Minister of Germany is crippled and in a wheelchair. I think Ghanaians should grow up and stop lambasting and bashing the president, Prof John Atta Mills, in the media for his infirmities. What we need now in Ghana is to have highly trained, educated and experienced media workers who know their onions and who are ethical, professional and objective. Enough is enough.
We are sick and tired of the specious and vociferous altercations on the airwaves which most often do not discuss issues but rather engage in character assassination, political propaganda and concocted lies. Ghanaians deserve better. Those FM Stations with their paid mercenary serial callers should be utterly ashamed of themselves because the Bible states that by their deeds they shall be known. Many Ghanaians have grown wise and are not listening in to some of these junk FM stations. I enjoin the proprietors of these media houses to send their staff out for refresher courses and to take the trouble to employ seasoned media employees. Gone are the days when we had seasoned journalists and broadcasters such as Robert Owusu, John Hammond, Vincent Assiseh, Cameron Duodu, Henry Ofori, Kwaku Sakyi Addo, Elizabeth Ohene, Kwame Amamoo, late Dr Paul Ansah, to name but a few.
• Those erring radio stations and newspapers should have their licences withdrawn
• Individuals should assert their property rights by suing any media house that infringes on their integrity and privacy
• The National Media Council should institute media watchdogs to take action against erring members
• The Ghana Journalists Association should increase their gatekeeping and oversight functions by ensuring that training standards and certification are raised to international levels
• Media houses should send their staff overseas for attachment to reputable institutions to acquire best practice