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Opinions of Friday, 11 September 2015

Columnist: Enimil Ashon

The GJA is losing some teeth

When the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), bought for the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) reporter a replacement of the recorder smashed by a presidential staffer, it was not because a replacement was so urgent. The foundation’s action was a statement.

Having heard of the offending presidential staffer’s promise to replace the recorder, the MFWA, by its move, was tactically refusing to allow the offending presidential staffer a chance to mollify Ghanaians with what was clearly going to be mere tokenism. In other words, if the offender has not thought it needful to apologise, merely replacing the damaged recorder would amount to throwing crumbs at (to the offender’s mind) a small fry whose plaintive whining has reached the level of a nuisance.

As well, the MFWA act is reminding the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) that it is time to announce that smashing a reporter’s recorder is an act that cannot and will not be countenanced, and over which the association should not be willing to negotiate. That act was an affront to the dignity of the profession; indeed, on press freedom, and nobody, not even the President of Ghana, should be allowed to treat a journalist that way and get away with it.

By this, the association would, in effect, be serving notice that to touch one journalist in this country is to touch all journalists. But how can a dog show its teeth if it doesn’t have them?

The MFWA move also asks a fundamental question: How would the GJA have acted or reacted if Al Jazeera TV’s Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste were Ghanaian journalists? Snivel apologies on behalf of the authorities?

The GJA’s handling of matters arising out of the fatal accident involving the vehicle of the Presidential Press Corps and the smashing of the GBC reporter’s recorder has scratched the surface of a scar covering a wound that had not totally healed. Of course, I still do not favour the formation of a counter association for journalists, but to make GJA relevant, we should make it dependable.

The association’s executive need to look at the clock: What time is it? Our yesterdays are in the past and must be allowed to remain there. The annual GJA Awards are fine, but the hour, minute and second hands of the clock are pointing to something beyond glitz and glamour.

The clock says it is time for professional development — especially in a country where there seems to be no fixed qualifications to practise the craft; a country whose 1992 Constitution makes every citizen a potential journalist. Right now, the only Ghanaians who are not journalists are those who don’t care to describe themselves as such.

Consider Nursing in Ghana. Nurses who do not attend work-related seminars or workshops risk not having the Nurses and Midwives Council renew their PIN. Accountants are endlessly writing papers till they get to ACCA or CA Final. The Marketing practitioners are chartering every day to be professionally recognised.

Professional development aside, kindly take a look at teachers today. Nobody should tell me GNAT is getting it right because teachers number in the millions. No, it has been born from the fertile, creative imagination of the T.A. Bediakos of yesteryear and the Irene Duncan-Adanusahs of the 21st century. Today, teachers are taking mortgage and car loans. The Ghana Registered Nurses Association is in business, converting their members’ dues into hostels and conference centres. I repeat: it is not the numbers.

What did Ghanaian journalists do, or are doing, with the Media Development Fund? I respect the principled stand of the Media Commission, but two years down the line, it is indefensible that the GJA, for the benefit of whose members the fund was set up, has not managed to broker a solution out of the impasse. That seed money, in Treasury Bills for even a year, would be big enough to start dream projects for practising journalists. The Press Centre, for instance, could do with a few extra storeys higher. The name is real estate.

In the history of the GJA, T. B. Oti stirred the waters and Edward Ameyibor fished from it. Kabral Blay-Amihere sowed the seed, Gifty Affenyi Dadzie watered it and Ransford Tetteh tended the resultant garden. By what legacy does Affail Monney want to be remembered?

The problem with our present GJA is that it has no Executive Secretary. The club desperately needs to revert to the role Bright Blewu used to play in the club, a full-timer. Nobody can play that role better than Dave Agbenu.

Unfortunately for the association, however, Dave is a full time state-owned newspaper Editor. And he is ‘General Secretary’ not Executive Secretary.
When former Trade Fair boss, Madam Esther Ofori, said that organisations needed leaders who would be paid to dream, she was careful to caution that they could not continue to be paid to remain in dreams. Irene Adanusah has shown to Ghana what difference an “executive” functionary can make.

Journalists in Ghana cannot afford to be doing business as usual. It’s time for business unusual. Otherwise, we shall continue to limp, impotent, while our colleagues are transported in hired private vehicles and get slapped around by “powerful” politicians. We are losing our teeth.

Sorry. Did I say “powerful”? Merely by becoming a politician? Efficient? Anybody who has money enough to dole out one billion (old Ghana) cedis cannot but be efficient. Journalists may not be affluent but they are proud of their ‘by-lines’. (I am talking about “journalists”)
And why is the Ghanaian President, a communicator, so quiet?