You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2009 10 24Article 170754

Opinions of Saturday, 24 October 2009

Columnist: Sankah, Darrel Oko

Is GNA a WACAM PR Outfit?

Oko Sankah

Facts, they say, are sacred; and truth is like a cork, no matter how hard it is held down a bucket of water, it will always pop up when one gets tired and let go. Fact: the loyalty of every journalist, worth his sort, is first to the ‘masses’ other than to the elite. But the truth is, in seeking to serve the public interest journalists owe it to the masses to be factual and truthful.

Indeed, distorting the facts and subverting the truth, supposedly to favour the masses, is as much a disservice and disloyalty to the masses as sacrificing public interest in favour of the powers that be and corporate/multinational organisations. Unlike journalists, non-governmental organisations are not necessarily responsible to the people but to some financiers, who have their own agenda for sponsoring activities of advocacy groups; and for those who think NGOs are sacred and are the standard for morality, they should think again because news about NGOs faking it to line their pockets are rampant.

Even though the recent chemical overflow from the Newmont Ghana Ahafo Mines into a small stream that is not used by the public for any purpose (drinking, swimming, or fishing) was not the first time such an incident had occurred in this country, this particular one exposed some known self-professed journalistic moral horse riders at GNA as the most compromised and mischievous characters in journalism.

Reports flowing out from GNA indicate that there is huge divide between the entrenched anti-Newmont/pro-WACAM group and some newsroom staff tagged as pro-Newmont.

More precisely, reliable sources said the Supervising Chief Editor of GNA, is such an die-hard anti-Newmont/pro-WACAM; and in fact anti-everything multinational, such that he has placed notices at the GNA newsroom to stop anything Newmont from getting through the GNA system to the public.

Reports also has it that he actually placed notices on a stories related to Newmont that they should not be published by GNA because “GNA is not a PR outfit of Newmont”.

He was quoted as saying that if he had seen Newmont’s initial press statement on the spillage, he would not have allowed it to go through GNA’s system. He reportedly fought with everybody who worked on Newmont stories without his involvement and threatened to punish those involved.

He even went as far as trying to call the editors of some media houses (Daily Graphic in particular), I am told, to reprimand them for using the Newmont article that obviously exposed his as a distorted article.

This man dared to accuse his reporters, editors and sub-editors as having been bought by Newmont, when in fact it is he whose behaviour expose as though he is on the payroll of WACAM.

Everybody who does not speak the language of WACAM, according to this GNA stone-aged minded crow, has been bought by Newmont; including the EPA official who granted him the interview and he distorted the information; and the chiefs of the Kenyasi in the Asutifi District, where the incident occurred. On the contrary he kept pushing the agenda of WACAM as if it was nobody’s business. We all read the full WACAM press statement that GNA published online and in some local newspapers, so we do not need anybody to tell us that GNA has become the PR outfit for WACAM.

Reliable sources said even though he called for team work in working on stories related to the spillage, he did not consult anybody when he pushed WACAM articles and press statements through GNA as if GNA was a PR outfit for WACAM. The impunity with which he pushed WACAM’s agenda was such that WACAM issued a three page press statement on Saturday, October 17, 2009, making wild allegations, fabrications and accusing Newmont, this man published the whole of the three-page document unedited.

But when the Newmont took journalists to the Ahafo Mines to see things for themselves, and the GNA report came through, he edited every explanation Newmont gave, describing them as false; and then lifted some of WACAM’s wild claims from the fully published press statement and added it to Newmont’s story to water down its effect.

This is the man who called his reporters and editors PR persons for Newmont, but he is “not” a PR person for WACAM. Let the public judge.

This is a man who thinks every multinational company in this country, including Newmont, is like a drug baron, so he has made a life long commitment to fight them in the name of some Nkrumahist principles that only he knows about. This is a man who claimed that anybody who does not speak the language of WACAM has been bought by Newmont and yet he is the one who has done enough to uphold the assertion that he is on the payroll of WACAM.

This is the man who claims that everything WACAM says is an oracle of God and that even all the chiefs of the affected communities have been bought by Newmont so they are not to be trusted over WACAM.

When WACAM listed some seven villages, Kantinka; Afua Serwakrom; Norbertkrom; Kyeikrom; Bronikrom; Lawyerkrom; Kwamebourkrom, as affected villages, and the chiefs challenged them to provide evidence of the existence of those villages, this man said the chiefs were liars and that WACAM is more credible, so he published the fake names WACAM listed without verification and discounted what the chiefs said.

Meanwhile it is a known fact that NGOs like WACAM sometimes distort and sometimes go as far as fabricating stories to make a case for their relevance. It is obvious which organisation has enjoyed the benefits of GNA’s PR activities, whether it is Newmont or WACAM. Journalism is supposed to be the melting point for divergent views or sides of an issue. Journalism allows the public to judge what the truth is.

But that kind of journalism is foreign to the Supervising Chief Editor of GNA. By all means WACAM has something to say, Newmont has something to say, the EPA has something to say, the chiefs in the affected communities and other community leaders, also have something to say.

But this man has been selective in deciding who has the benefit of GNA’s network to air their side of the issue.

The extent of his biasness is that even when WACAM deliberately distorted the facts and he (the GNA man) display gross ignorance about the different types of cyanide, he still would not give the other party the benefit of responding through the same channel.

Some journalism; and I am told that he shamelessly keeps harping on some principles of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and some mandate he (Osagyefo) gave to the GNA when the agency was established.

I bet if Osagyefo had been alive, he would have transformed the GNA into a world class news agency and the mandate would have gone through stages of development to make it relevant to the times, as against the time GNA was established. But now, the dynamism of global development is fast pushing GNA into extinction, particularly because of people like this laggard of a Supervising Chief Editor, who hide behind some Kwame Nkrumah principles and use GNA as a WACAM PR outfit to line his pocket.

Osagyefo must be turning in his grave for what people like this man are using the agency for.

On the contrary, people like him have done absolutely nothing to improve the fortunes of the agency since they got to the top of the lather, even though they were all beneficiaries of the industriousness of past leaders of the agency, who used to occupy the very position he is currently occupying.

The staff members of GNA will always miss the days of people like Rev. G. Annim, Mr. Edward Ameyibor, Mr. Ken Wood, Mr. Sam Quarcoo and others who made their mark before these empty-headed management team took over.

The development of the agency and working conditions of staff should engage this man’s attention more than pushing the fabrications of some NGO, which thrives on such. ENDS