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Opinions of Thursday, 22 June 2017

Columnist: Dr Frankie Asare-Donkoh

Ghana Journalists Association at the crossroads of anarchy and disintegration

On August 15, 1949, something spectacular happened in the then Gold Coast. In the midst of colonial rule and at the time nationalist struggles for independence had intensified against the colonialists’ resolved to keep the people and the nation under their thumbs, a journalists’ association was formed.

It was named Africa Press Association with membership including Dr Kwame Nkrumah and Dr J. B. Danquah. But, why ‘Africa’ and not ‘Gold Coast’ Press Association? My own interpretation is that at that time many of the African nationalists and freedom fighters for independence were in the Gold Coast, and many of these people used the press as one of the key tools for their fight against colonial rule. They were journalists.

With political pressures which divided the members of the association over the years, the Africa Press Association underwent different stages and names to become the Association of Ghanaian Journalists and Writers in 1960, and then the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in 1969.

The association has since its formation been led at different times and in different capacities by distinguished journalists like T. B. Ottie, Ben Dorkenoo, Martin Therson-Cofie, Eric Adjorlolo, G. A. Hassen, Henry Ofori (Carl Mutt), Carl Reindorf, Regina Addae, G.A Dentu and Kwame Gyewu-Kyem.

In our modern-day GJA, we have fresh memories of Kabral Blay-Amihere, whose leadership immensely and significantly transformed the GJA into a formidable and more visible journalists’ association. Ambassador Blay-Amihere's exemplary leadership culminated in his desire to get a West African version of the GJA. This led to the formation of the West Africa Journalists Association (WAJA).

With the solid foundation led by Ambassador Blay-Amihere, it was not difficult at all for his deputy, Gifty Affenyi-Dadzie, to assume the leadership of the GJA. Mrs Affenyi-Dadzie also did her best to take the association to another level. Since then, we have had Ajoa Yeboa-Afari and Ransford Tetteh leading the GJA, before it got to the turn of Affail Monney, the current President.

Throughout its history, the journalists association has had its fair share of internal wrangling, sometimes as a result of the manipulations of governments and their officials who, fearing the power of the media, always tried to get their hold on the GJA leadership and most influential journalists. Sometimes too, the association’s problems had been caused by the gaping apathetic attitude of its members; most of them usually would not care to participate in activities of the association including even the annual general meeting where policy decisions are taken.

In the past, as an association, we have had leadership contest problems. We still remember the bitter fight between Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh and Yaw Owusu Addo, who were both senior journalists in Daily Graphic and GBC Radio and lawyers, for the position of president. In the midst of their acrimonious struggle for the position, the intervention of some senior members of the association, and most importantly the genuine concern of both Boadu-Ayeboafoh and Owusu Addo and their love for the association enabled them to stand aside. This led to election of Ajoa Yeboah Afari as the president.

The term and mandate of the current executive of the GJA led by Affail Monney, who took office on May 3, 2013, ended in May 2016. Surprisingly, Monney and his team are still in office in disregard of the conventions and practices, and also the constitution of the GJA. It appears Monney’s executive has deliberately not made the desired efforts to get elections held.

Eventually, and coming under intense pressure from some members, elections were scheduled for March 31, 2017. Unfortunately, some of the contestants including Lloyd Evans (for president) and Matthew Mac-Kwame (for vice-president) were under strange circumstances disqualified by the GJA Election Committee led by one of the very senior journalists, Ben Assorow.

On appeal to the GJA Elections Dispute Adjudication Committee (EDAC) led by Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh, the disqualifications were quashed. One would have thought that with the completion of the work of the EDAC the elections would have come on. However, in another bizarre move by Assorow’s Election Committee, fresh nominations were opened for members wishing to contest for positions, despite the fact that the time for filing nominations had long past. I’m not aware of any cogent reason from the Election Committee why nominations were re-opened when the time had long elapsed.

This action of Mr Assorow and his committee has brought the GJA to the crossroads of anarchy and disintegration, and nobody knows when the elections would be held. This situation calls for an urgent action by all concerned members of the GJA to restore the image of the association. In solving the current problem, Mr Affail Monney and his executive whose term and mandate ended last year, should immediately step down for an interim management committee (IMC) made up of some senior members of the association to be put in place. Also, the Ben Assorow Election Committee must be dissolved immediately since it has not lived up to the expectation of majority of members. It is generally due to the committee’s inconsistencies and apparent bias in favour of some contestants that had plunged the association into its present hopeless state.

The IMC which will take over the affairs of the association must also take over the conduct of the elections, fix a new date for voting, and supervise the elections and takeover of a new leadership. The IMC must allow all those who have already been cleared to contest without the need to re-open nominations.

The GJA needs a saviour urgently, and the saviour must be the members who must urgently ensure that an IMC is put in place without any further delay.

The author is a former Deputy General Secretary and acting General Secretary of the GJA. fasado@hotmail.com