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Opinions of Monday, 8 October 2007

Columnist: Asante Fordjour

The Abortion Broadcast

...The Gathering Storms And The “Eroding-Ethics” of Ghanaian Journalism

The London HotFM AND KasapahFM


Ken Ashton- our personal tutor and coach at the London School of Journalism, never relaxed his emphasise on the five golden rules of journalism and newswriting: What happened? Who are involved? Where did it happen? When did it happen? Why did it happen and if the report it is a feature piece, how did it happen? The first issues are known by journalists as “Five Ws”. “The Hows” give the reporter the ease- both in colour and in-depth research that are sought from official sources- the Police; departmental heads or eye-witnesses, who resolve doubts, anxieties, speculations or sensationalism that sometimes erupt rifts and fierce battles?

Having asked, let us consider this report. On Thursday, 6 September 2007, DJ Kwame Alfred Larbi, known in the broadcast media as “Oxygen” and one Osofo Kwame, corresponding live from Spintex Road, Accra, told a London-based KasapahFm Radio “Morning Show Presenter “Easy E”, otherwise, known as “Yaw”, and millions of his listeners that an NPP presidential aspirant had impregnated a student at the University of Ghana, Legon, Accra. That the yet to be named student has died in her attempt to terminate the foetus- or the unborn baby.

The fictitious graduate student, according to the report, had travelled afar in this affair, despite her mother’s persistent objection. “The mother says she is not ready to reveal the name of the elderly married man to the media… Media people or journalists cannot be trusted… All that she (the Mom) wants is for the alleged aspirant to come forward with some two hundred million New Ghanaian Cedis just to recover the body from Korle Bu Mortuary for burial and save-keep the rest of the compensatio?n… After all, she is dead,” the broadcasters said.

“Abortion”, actually means the ending of pregnancy in any circumstances. Thus, ‘spontaneous abortion’ is a medical term for miscarriage, however, the word, per Bourne and Derry, has become the common term for the medical or voluntary termination of pregnancy (1). The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reveals that about one in three women will have an abortion at some time in their life (2). While legally, a foetus becomes a person at birth and for that matter its killing, however old in the womb in the Great Britain, is not murder, it therefore, exist as a separate offence, because the inquiry is not being caused to somebody who is a legal person (ibid). However, section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 which we strongly suspect had been active in Gold Coast since 1874, states:

‘Every woman, being with child who, with intent to procure her own miscarriage, shall unlawfully administer to herself any poison or other noxious thing, or shall unlawfully use any instrument or other means whatsoever with the like intent and whosoever, with intent to procure the miscarriage of any woman, whether she be or not with child, shall unlawfully administer to her or cause to be taken by her any poison or other noxious thing, or shall unlawfully use instrument or any other means whatsoever with the like intent, shall be guilty of an offence, and being convicted thereof shall be liable to imprisonment.’ So we pondered whether the poor mother, whom “Oxy” declined any leads, must be allowed to sacrifice her “phantom daughter” or be traced to whosoever might have been responsible for the crime

In the UK, medical termination of pregnancy is directly regulated by the law as it affects the very lives of many women. In 2001, Government statistics show that 176,364 abortions were carried out on women living in England and Wales- almost 90% of them in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Yet, most of these women, know very little about their rights under the law. Survey of British women shows that only 24% knew that the written consent of two doctors was required, while just 13% of women knew the time limit for abortion.(3)

This raised not only journalistic duty but also, a challenge to all objective Ghanaians. But, just as the world was puzzling over who might have been involved in this offence, surfaced what we have termed as: “The Abortion Broadcast”. In one of his “Morning Shows”, Ernest had been hinted about this allegation by one Kanewu. Surprisingly in their Weekly News Review of Sunday 9 September 2007, journalists Ernest Kofi Owusu Bempa Bonsu and Maureen Donkor, of the London HOTFM, promised Londoners of breaking news on a recorded tape. “We shall soon play the tape… listen to it carefully and make your own judgement.”

The voice on the tape that was played twice settled on Nana Akufo-Addo, forcefully denying any fore-knowledge. But the immediate-past Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and NEPAD, who said he had just arrived in London, dropped-shells that there had been an earlier moves to smear his name vis-à-vis an attempted rape of a journalist. Nana alleged this was orchestrated by his detractors within his own family- the NPP, whose only aim is to destroy his person and political track-record that he had groomed over the decades. So, had he been right on the swift abortion interview to rescue his political career and person?

In UK, an abortion can be carried out if two doctors agree that the woman is less than 24 weeks pregnant, and: (1) that continuing with the pregnancy would involve risk to her physical or mental health greater than if the pregnancy was terminated; or (2) that continuing with pregnancy would involve risk to the physical or mental health of any existing children in her family. The 24-week limit does not apply if: (a) the woman’s life would be at risk or (b) if there is a risk of grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman if the pregnant continues; or (c) if there is substantial risk that the child would be born with a serious disability. In some countries, .individual politician or political party’s “open supports” for abortion, had been, indisputably, contesting electioneering campaigning issue.

So, for a human rights advocate Nana Akufo-Addo- who appears set in most opinion polls”, to be in the centre of this rumour, as worst of it were aired by callers, raised serious concerns. Alex Segbefia- the Ghanaian UK-based criminal lawyer and the NDC UK/Ireland Branch Chairman, while cautious in his words and distanced NDC from any links, which the NPP aspirant himself confirmed, the NPP UK/Ireland Branch Public Relations Officer, Nana Gyebi, who on the programme, failed to uncover any earlier hint about that “hotel quiz”, cautioned his disciples of immanent crush of their once embedded tradition, were to sacrifice issues-based campaign for “personality-attacks” It seemed correct that radars coincidently, picked the two sturdy bidders- the Addos, in London.

From journalistic point of view, it appeared at the end of the Show that the speculation “cooke?d” by “Oxygen”- the grandson of Awo Oparebea, of Larteh, who had been perhaps, perceived as Nana Addo-Akufo’s supporter, prompted not only criminal inquiry but also, political interest as the story unfolds. Equally true was Nana’s sweeping blame on some of his colleagues which blew unpleasant aroma within the Holy Scribes, who as usual, swiftly raised accusing finger at the NDC. Resisting, one Kwesi- an NDC academic litigant- who identifies himself from Harlesden- North London, told the world of an earlier report attributed to Dr Kofi Konadu Apraku- MP for Offinso. The NPP presidential aspirant had been quoted as saying that the NPP national delegates must vote for a God-fearing candidate with a high morals but not the “brand” that would use the presidency to “unzip young girls and women?”

As journalists feed on one another, the speculations, unfortunately, left many to inquire what leads DJs Oxygen, Osofo, and “Easy E” might have spin at Ernest to warrant his interview with Nana Akufo-Addo Arguably, this remained a misery to most audience until Monday 10 September 20007, where the presenters on both sides of the story, began not only to belittle themselves before their sympathizers and critics but also, the noble vocation. This continued until 14 September 2007, where the highly-flagged “news”, uncontrollably, leaked and with force, splashed on our faces. Thus, while Ernest anchored his story on follow-ups leads from Kanawu, Oxygen, who had returned to Ghana after some three months “special assignment” here and which sailed him to Spain and the Osofo, were talking of prophesy- something millions of intelligent bystanders and listeners, unequivocally scorned As inquiring minds and talk-provoking questions, continue to hold not only their journalistic credibility in check but also, their studios in hostage, the two community stations, jumped on each other’s throat.

This tension, we speculate, seemed to have exploded from the fact that the two Morning Show Stars: Ernest and Easy E”, seem not only to have insightful scoop in the NPP but perhaps, command some trust within the hierarchy? We do not know where the Kwesi was linking his thesis. But judging from his exchanges and that of one Irene, a London caller and reasoning that journalists brainstorm before a story comes to light, “Easy”, who also does not hide his roots- Offinso, a hometown of Dr. Apraku, also raised not only an ill-fated eye-brows but also, contradictions and gaps-fillings? For Yaw to suppress the very rumours or news that surfaced ever since 28 August when the then silent Nana Akufo-Addo stirred the political waters, and the time-line for Hon Apraku’s message to delegates, which the MP is yet to produce evidence to establish this disparaging statement about his rival colleagues, should, “Easy” not have had a cool-nerve for an in-depth reflection on the abortion broadcast?

One Joe Pharisee, a habitual Ghana-London caller and staunch supporter of NPPAspirant Professor Frimpong Boateng, formerly of Korle Bu, impliedly alleged: “Nana Akufo Addo deserves his “bigger cake”. Gaby Okyere Darko, of the Statesman, does the same to other aspirants…When Vice-President Aliu’s convoy was involved in an accident; some newspapers “fumed” that the Vice-President had used the dead for human sacrifice.” Indeed this is not the first time such stories are being peddled or told about the Statesman which Gaby had been at the helm of its editorials? Dr Anane’s “scandal” is the most often cited case

In his brief report to KasapahFM London, on Tuesday, 11 September 2007, “Oxygen” accused Gaby of leaking to other media houses the private interview he granted to the Statesman. This raises the issues of how and when the journalist must reveal the source of his story? Thus, DJ Kwame Alfred, appeared stunned when one “George” of the Crusading Guide newspaper, phoned and cross-examined him on the very core of the discussion he had on his own volition, permitted Gaby to record? With this, one could suggest that “Oxy” was forthright to be shocked that a newspaper that according to him, once attempted not only to undermine the marriage of his sister- Irene, the lawyer but also, continues to publish falsehood about his father and his “envious position as the Director of Ghana School of Law”, is also in bed with Statesman? Journalistically, “Oxy” must not be puffed to learn that even the Chronicle, whose boss- (Nana Koomson,) cannot sleep if Nana Akufo-Addo becomes president of Ghana or the Lens, may all be dinning in a common plate with the Pro-NPP paper

There could be no better explanation to this than how Nana Konadu and Akua Boakyewaa Yiadom treated this Abortion tales. Whereas Akua was brief on the report concerning Oxygen, Nana Yaa told Ernest that she will neither wish him a happy birthday nor review a the paper that Ernest himself was making news because she was not fine with him on that day? Like Irene’s law certificate report, that Oxygen’s father X accused a young newscaster for reading a news item concerning her daughter which under his own estimation, was a falsehood directed to discredit his 23-year-old brilliant lawyer, Nana Yaa did indeed subject herself as Brebre but not as Amanie3 and told it as it stood. Thus, Oxy’s Dad roughly told KasapaFM: “What baffled me on hearing the news was that the reader attended the Morning Sta?r with Irene and knows how clever my daughter is/wa?s…” So the newscaster should have ignored her news editors? We labour not, for there was no comment from the Chronicle.

Though they attend unique schools for their respective professions, journalists, unlike jurists, might indeed not end up in the same workplace. So we can reason that their news judgements may be undoubtedly different. Thus, a story that is sensitive to their editorial policy might be reported in “brief and flash” or spin to colleagues or friends in other houses? Yes, after all, we must not be seen as enemies. On this score, fire-brands like the Ansabas, Bakos, Gabys, Joojos, Koomsons and the Platts, to mention but a few, might have also been motivated not only by their journalistic instincts for their “exclusives” but also, through collegial contacts?

Harris & Sparks write that in Britain and of course, in Ghana too, there are many sorts of newspapers. As for example, tabloid dailies are for readers who want to be entertained as well as informed. Quality dailies are identified with a mostly “better-educated”, often professional readership as well as specialist papers such as the Financial Times The crux of the matter, however, as the authors point out, is that to merit its place in a newspaper news should not only be news in an absolute sense of being new, it should also be the sort of news that the readers of the paper and in our case various radio stations, are likely to want to listen. And there is indisputably, variety of newspapers and readership. Thus a story’s news value is the value it has to the newspaper printing it and indeed the FM radio station broadcasting it (4)

This they say is really, of course, an editor’s or chief sub-editors’s task, but a reporter should also be able to recognize what is news for the newspaper; to spot which aspects are the ones to be given prominence in writing the story. So Gaby, for example, may be right to inquire for the Statesman’s readers who might have been “feeding Oxygen” on the abortion story about Nana Akufo-Addo. Yet, Sir Ashton points out that credible journalism, is measured not only on the “Five Ws”- where fairness, balanced and accuracy is the catchword but also, on the “Hows”- that enquire about the personality behind the story being told and yes, the knob of it.

As illustrated above, the most important thing is that news values for any print or broadcast media depends upon the readers or audience, and upon the editor’s concept of what the targeted readership will want to read and can be persuaded to read or listen. Of course, Harris & Spark argue that there may be papers with pronounced political leanings- dedicated to particular parties or even religions. Yet, readers are not only interested in how the news being told affects them and their children, but are also concerned about how it affects other people. For example, we might not normally want to read anything about a particular place or person involved in controversy, or at the centre of great events. But if a great crisis came upon the people there or that person and was graphically described, our interest could be truly aroused.

Therefore, Spark & Harris remind us that whatever the story we pursue and present to our papers or broadcast houses, not only must it be new; but it must have the best and most complete facts we can obtain and be able to vouch for their accuracy. That we must not give an exaggerated importance to ‘least news’ in that our newspaper will be happy to get in aspect of story which are too late for its rivals. That where there is a controversy, we must be sure to get on the people on both sides of the argument and if anyone is reluctant, we must point out how damaging a one-sided report could be. Thus, getting both sides of the story safeguards the journalist against legal suit and inaccuracy of prejudiced informants. True, if not, how could prophetic revelations or breaking news which turned out to be hoax, be pursued to campuses and hospitals as desperate audience remain in suspense and puzzle over the truth?

Understandably, with the emergence of information revolution and more so the gathering storms of the 2008 general elections, Ghanaian journalism appears enormously, overstretched. Yet, journalists are tutored to love all people irrespective of their beliefs and origin. Yes, even Jesus Christ did preach first and foremost, for the lost Sheep of Israel so we can be deaf to the sermon that politics, accountability, equal rights and justice, must outdo religion and ethnicity. But did Jesus not sympathise with that chronic breeding Canaanite woman? Yes, as informants, educators and entertainers, journalists can take a stand on any issue. Yet, we must, according to Ken Ashton, not be swayed by personal prejudices and exaggerations but rather produce arguments that are supported by authoritative source if our readership were not to be left in the dark combing for the truth in “rival newspapers” thereby risking not only the trust but also, our subscribers where fiscally, we neither rely on adverts nor “political handouts.”

Indeed we doubt not the intelligence of the Ghanaian. But reasoning that we could be of differing “fortitude”, the concluding task must be indeed not only on stories that resolve the “Five Ws and the Hows” but also, our drive to eschew ‘unjustified news’ that spark provocations which sometimes erupt rifts and time-consuming squabbles. The Ghana National Reconciliation Commission within its mandate period (6th March, 1957 to 6th January, 1993), reveals a devastation role of the Ghana Armed Forces in Ghana’s destabilization but concedes that this would have been impossible without the help of the media. It rests on our shoulders whether to sacrifice our honest conscience and the future of Ghana for a calabash of porridge.


1. Bourne & Derry, Women and Law, 2005

2. The Management of Infertility in Tertiary Care, 2000

3. Women’s Preparation of Abortion Law and Practice in Britain, Marie Stopes International, 2002

4. Harris & Spark: 1995

5. The Ghana National Reconciliation Commission, Final Report (October, 2004)

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.