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Opinions of Saturday, 26 July 2014

Columnist: Blege, Alex

When Journalists Perform The Watchdog Role

… “Stroke Of My Pen”: When Journalists Perform The Watchdog Role- By Alex Blege
One of the first roles every would-be journalist learns when he or she steps into the journalism school is to be a watchdog. In other words, surveillance role.

This role is crucial because the journalist begins to be the eyes and ears of the citizens or the public. The journalist upon assumption of this role must not in any way sell his or her conscience to please anyone anywhere else.

This watch dog role can make the journalist a friend of many or can make the journalist an enemy of many. No matter the tag any journalist gets in the course of practicing as a true watchdog, it should be taken as normal.

This brings to mind what one of my lecturers at the Ghana Institute of Journalism, Mr. Osei Kwadwo consistently reminded us of 'you will step on big toes as you go along in the performance of your duties'.

The politician will want to take advantage of the journalist or other times the journalist will set a trap for the politician to fall in, so he or she can have the politician dance to very unpleasant tunes.

There is one interesting trend in this nation. This is it, if a particular story suits a particular section of a group of politicians then the writer is doing well, however, if it does not favour, then that writer is biased.

Every journalist in the pursuit of the profession, has a simple task, to give a true account of the story he or she publishes.Why? the public has a right to know the truth. Should the journalist subject the truth because, he or she will not be tolerated by those the story affect?

The principles of journalism does not in any way state that a journalist should conceal the true reflection of a situation just so that he or she can please some few individuals.

In these times when the governors do not care about what happens to the governed, the Ghanaian journalist must rise to the occasion and be a watchdog for the people.

I had the opportunity of spending seven weeks in a village called Asuboi- where two rivers meet, Sinae and Subri. This village is in the Tano South District of the Brong Ahafo Region. This village is off the Techimantia - Derma road.

On the road to this village, are other villages such as Akrobo, Mpomponase, Nyamebeye, and Animadukrom- all farming villages. There is one interesting feature about these villages- the soil is fertile.

I was there at a time when it was in the harvesting season. It is sad that most of the time the means of transport to cart all the harvested farm produce to the market centre is not there.

Children have to walk for about three to four kilometres to school. On the day that it rains, then those moving from Asuboi to Akrobo, or from Animadukrom to Asuboi can not go to school, the road that connects the villages, the least spoken of it the best.

Meanwhile the parents of these children voted for a politician who was to ensure that their children had easy access to education, easy access to a market centre where they can sell their farm produce and a health facility where their health needs will be and a motor able road. But what do they get, making the elected well off.

It is funny how our leaders across the divide take the electorates- their children go to the best schools, they go to the best hospitals in America, UK and the rest, the electorate's child, or himself or herself has to do with the public hospital where there is only one medical doctor, the child goes to a school where when it rains, no school, no teachers. It is heart breaking.

With all these, how can a true journalist abandon his or her role of being a watch dog .It is disheartening to see children walk and cross rivers just so that they can attend class.

As I desire to step up my game- that is know and learn more about the profession which I have chosen, I chanced upon something very educative from The Neiman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

It talks about the Elements of Journalism. Some of the interesting articles I have read has broadened my understanding of working as a journalist.

There was a statement that caught my attention as I read one article co-authored by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel “…Being impartial or neutral is not a core principle of journalism. ...impartiality was never what was meant by objectivity. ...the critical step in pursing truthfulness and informing citizens is not neutrality but independence....

Therefore there is nothing wrong, when any journalist decides to take a stand in taking the critical step towards achieving the honest information of citizens.

Why should people or the governors from any of the divide in Ghana view any journalist as biased, when the journalist owes an allegiance to the people or the citizens.

It is the only way for development journalism- journalism that seeks to assist the citizens in rising against corruption, injustice and its associates.

I end with a proverb "the dog is supposed to bark; however, if it leaves this role to the goat then there is trouble"