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Opinions of Saturday, 27 February 2010

Columnist: Aidoo, Ato

Call for Journalistic Truce- Alhaji vs. Malik

By Ato Aidoo

It is true that manifestations of the nuances and contradictions in the practice of journalism can point to individual or collective notions of personhood with the responsibilities to society, and practitioners in many countries where economic hardship, and rampant corruption are present, cannot totally insulate themselves from misconduct.

Nevertheless, journalists should not wash their dirty linen in public because the perception of corruption is not profession-specific, and some of the allegations are baseless. Nobody was born to die in poverty, and it is not a crime for a journalist to live comfortably.

It is undeniable, that when there is corruption in a society, some journalists become part of it, though this is not what defines their humanity, especially in a situation where there are mechanisms to enforce ethical standards and accountability.

This is why I do not understand why journalists in Ghana are bashing themselves. The latest culprits are two senior journalists from the same religious faith engulfed by accusations of using the profession once upon a time to acquire ill-gotten wealth (wealth defined as living in one’s own house, and a car).

People should not condone corrupt practices, but it has not been an easy week, against the backdrop of many questions from friends and relatives eager to know the inside story of journalism in Ghana, and having to grapple with this matter – in the case of Alhaji A.B.A Fuseini Vs Malik Kweku Baako (Lawyer Boafo-Agyeman would allow me to borrow this depiction).

It would be in their interest, and to entrench responsible journalism in Ghana, Fuseini and Baako do not have to negotiate complexities in the profession on the altar of public discourse. Further digression would not salvage their image.

In fact, it can induce definite repercussions, the guiding principle being that perfection is of God, as we all try to work on our imperfections, respect systems that deal with dysfunctional professional behavior, and misappropriation of state money.

For A.B.A Fuseini, I worked with him at Daily Graphic, and to Mr. Baako, I cannot overstretch a humble advice. Before God and man, these vituperations, accusations, and counter-accusations must end, as they present bad examples to budding journalists.

We should also erase this misguided public opinion that Journalism is a “Kofi-broke-man” profession. Yes, the “newsroom” does not engage in fiscal matters, and we cannot turn it into a stock exchange. That does not justify why journalists should remain poor as the same society points to a low standard of living. This is unfair to hardworking journalists in Ghana. The era of poverty mentality is gone; the truth is that journalists and politicians are not necessarily a symbiotic pair. They are partners working for the common good of a country.

Sam Clegg, Elvis Aryeh, former editors of Daily Graphic newspaper, and some senior or retired journalists in Ghana typify this distinction. Many seasoned journalists in Ghana have legitimately bought or built their own houses through the exchange of their labor as in other professions.

Examples abound in Ghana News Agency, Ghanaian Times, GBC, and Daily Graphic, for which we cannot elaborate on this platform. These journalists are not thieves, neither do they benefit from government largesse. They plan their lives well, and have every right to own a property.

Fuseini is not a bad individual by all standards. He is one of the liberal and astute journalists at Daily Graphic, non-discriminatory, respects everybody irrespective of status, religion, age, gender, ethnic or political background. He is gregarious and not jealous of others achievements; a man of few words, hence, this argument with Baako is a surprise.

Knowing him, it is with humility and respect that I plead for an end to this act of public argument as we all submit ourselves to God’s judgment, and the legitimacy to acquire some necessities of life. House and a car are necessities. It is only in Ghana that people categorize them as a luxury.

This summarizes why it is even pointless to dissect the rhetoric, and this disagreement between men of the same faith, who are also in the same profession.

The Qur’an reminds them, that “If two parties among the Believers fall into fighting, make peace, but if one becomes aggressive, then fight against the one that transgresses until it complies.” Do they have to continue “fighting” until one complies? No.

Preferably, they should grasp the Holy Prophet’s counsel – Make peace, and keep the faith.

Author- formerly of the features desk, Daily Graphic, Accra, Ghana.