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Opinions of Monday, 28 April 2008

Columnist: Ablakwa, Samuel Okudzeto

Ghana’s Night of Shame

Joe Baidoo Ansah as an embarrassment to all Ghanaians and the Ministry of Information’s intervention in preventing Metro TV from re-broadcasting

Viewers of Metro TV’s Good Evening Ghana programme on Thursday 24th April 2008 have certainly been left clueless and absolutely embarrassed at the display of sheer intolerance and shameless interference in media work by a Ghanaian Cabinet Minister.

Joe Baidoo Ansah is Ghana’s Minister of Trade and has this week been elected President of the prestigious United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). He might have sworn to proof right Aristophanes when he wrote in “Knights” – “You have all the characteristics of a popular politician: a horrible voice, bad breeding and vulgar manner.” If anybody thought that Joe Baidoo Ansah by virtue of his elevation as President of UNCTAD and at least having mingled with high-level diplomats at the on-going UNCTAD Conference in Accra might have learnt some diplomacy, then, that person was in for a huge disappointment by Thursday night. The disgusting spectacle which live television ensured we all watched unedited; occurred when Good Evening Ghana which was being broadcast at the forecourt of the International Conference Centre where the UNCTAD XII is being hosted. Joe Baidoo Ansah suddenly stormed the set. Joe Baidoo Ansah stormed the programme and verbally attacked one of the panelists-Dr. Nii Moi Thompson. He also verbally attacked the host-Paul Adom Otchere for inviting Dr. Nii Moi Thompson to the programme. Dr. Nii Moi Thompson’s offence was that he had made reference to the issue of priorities so far as resource allocation is concerned and questioned the prudence of the purchase of the two luxurious presidential jets. Like a wild tiger, Joe Baidoo Ansah dived from nowhere with the speed of light and approached Dr. Nii Moi Thompson pointing fingers and pouring vituperations. For a second, I thought the unruly Trade Minister and UNCTAD President was going to pounce on the comparatively diminutive Dr. Nii Moi Thompson and send him to his grave untimely. At this point, my mouth was opened in shock whiles I could see the respected Ambassador James Aggrey Orleans and the other panelist who is a foreigner helplessly express similar shock and disbelief as both host and panelists sat quietly and watched Joe Baidoo Ansah inflict upon them his Guinness Book of Records misconduct for several minutes. After a while, Metro TV had to take a long unprepared commercial break in order to resume after the Trade Minsiter had finished his embarrassing display. I must give credit though to Paul and especially Dr. Nii Moi for keeping their nerves calm as they watched Joe Baidoo Ansah misconduct himself. After all, it is our elders who say that “when you are bathing and a mad man comes for your clothes and runs with them, you don’t rush out and chase the mad man else observers would misconstrue both of you as mad.” That Metro TV’s Good Evening Ghana goes beyond the shores of Ghana as it is aired live on Satellite makes matters even worse. It is sad that at a time the world media attention is focused on Ghana, the world would be exposed to these undemocratic traits of intolerance and vulgarism by a Cabinet Minister. It is also, of course, a mockery of freedom of the press and the right to free expression. When one considers that Joe Baidoo Ansah belongs to the New Patriotic Party that has sought to viciously portray all other parties as undemocratic and project itself as the paragon of democracy, this myth now obviously stands exposed. A clearer confirmation that the myth is exposed is the resignation letter of Allan Kyerematen who is the second NPP Stalwart after Nana Akuffo Addo (in 1998) to confirm that within the NPP intimidation, harassment and hounding of intra party opponents is prevalent. Be that as it may, Joe Baidoo Ansah must be sanctioned by the President and his Party and UNCTAD must as a matter of urgency strip him off his undeserving post of President. Just when I was concluding this article, I had a call from a friend that would I believe that Metro TV isn’t repeating the programme as it usually does. This was true, and so I decided to check and guess what: Unimpeachable sources told me that the Ministry of Information and National Orientation had pressed upon Metro TV not to re-broadcast the programme as it normally does. This is the era of media freedom indeed! We all wait to see what the hitherto vibrant Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) would do about this.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa is the author of the book, A State of Coma; he has several other publications to his name. He was NUGS President and is currently a leading member of the CJA. He welcomes your comments.