The London based Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) has petitioned the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in Accra on behalf of West Africa magazines staff.
Dominic Cooper General Secretary of the CIoJ said, "I am hopeful that CHRAJ will finally resolve this matter and put it to rest. The treatment that the employees at West Africa Magazine have suffered is quite appalling. Graphic has completely abrogated their responsibilities toward the hard-working and dedicated staff that they themselves recruited here in London to work for their magazine. This poor treatment was without warning, explanation or even compensation. As I stated in a letter addressed to the Commissioner in Accra, Graphic Groups actions have been quite disgraceful and in the view of the Institute impinge on the rights of the workers affected by this unfortunate situation, which they could have prevented."
"There are now serious issues of what could be considered as the reckless treatment of the rights of these workers considering the length of time that has passed since the CIoJ first wrote to the Graphic Group about West Africa staff. For now, I remain confident that the Commissioner will investigate this affair and do the right thing by insisting that Graphic compensate their staff and make them legally redundant."
"We retain the Institute's lawyers in this matter and will continue to seek and implement their advice every step of the way. Other options remain open to be pursued here but it's always advisable to exhaust all possible local remedies."
Frank Afful managing Editor of West Africa magazine said, "We have petitioned the Commissioner with the support of the CIoJ. The support of a powerful and resourceful organisation like the CIoJ has been extremely useful. They have backed us all the way with strategic and sound legal advice as we have fought to claim what is due to us for the work we did for West Africa magazine. We were "just staff" as a Graphic lawyer once said to me in one of our numerous calls to the Graphic Group about the poor state of West Africa magazine. I hope they will now do the decent thing by us, pay us for our work as staff and compensate us for the unnecessary mess they have created in our lives."
"We have formally petitioned the Commissioner of CHRAJ Ms Anna Bossman in Accra and asked for her help to resolve this matter. The key thing here is that the Commissioner is independent and is also known to act consistently with firmness, impartiality and objectivity. These are qualities our former employers have not shown in their dealings with Afrimedias staff or in managing their business and investment in West Africa. The fact remains that good and effective management on the part of Graphic Group and their partners would have resolved the matter of staff salaries, redundancies and compensation as long ago as October or November 2003 and there would have been no need to involve the Commissioner at all."
Mr Desmond Davies Editor of West Africa said: "The late Kwame Nkrumah will be turning in his grave as a result of the Graphic managements inept handling of a publication that chronicled the history of not just Ghanas struggle for independence but also of other countries in the region. The magazines archives have disappeared and Africans and Africanists can no longer count on this wealth of information to carry out their work.
"The "I-dont-care" attitude of the Graphic management is symptomatic of the reckless nature in which those in authority in Africa carry out their business. One would expect some of the members of the Graphic management to aspire to political office. Given the way they have handled the West Africa issue, one doubts whether they would be the right choice for higher office. They cannot organise the proverbial piss-up in a brewery.
"West Africa continues to wreak havoc on the lives of the staff who worked hard to re-establish it as a serious publication for the Graphic Group and the questionable partner it brought into the business later. There are serious issues of rights abuses by Graphic Group and Afrimedia International publishers of West Africa." "But it is great to know that there are human rights instruments today in Africa and Europe that could bring redress to members of staff of West Africa magazine, who have been treated shabbily by the Graphic management."
Mr Bernard Otabil Business Editor of the magazine also said, "Good governance is not just for governments in Africa but also for organisations like Graphic Group to set an example worthy of their status and prominent national position. Graphic is aware that they have not treated staff well in this matter. A simple letter of explanation could have put this matter to rest long ago. We are not prepared to use our creative energies chasing elusive characters but there comes a time when it is important to fight for justice and fair treatment. It is just fair that human beings are treated as equal. What has happened here is just another example of mans inhumanity to his fellow man. We were deceived, robbed and hang out dry and die."
Lawyers have also begun to consider the part played by the Board of Graphic in all this. These considerations have been instigated by the passage of what some have described in legal circles as, "a reasonable length of time" in which they have failed to take hold of the issue of staff and their treatment and made bold decisions with or without the MD to resolve the matter of staff salaries and compensation. The boards failure to act is a clear indication of their tacit support for MD Mr Appentengs handling of the situation, which could indicate possible negligence on their part.
Notes to Editors
West Africa magazine is the worlds leading English language magazine to cover West African politics, business and social affairs. The magazine was first published in 1917 to foster trade between Britain and her colonies in West Africa and is probably the most respected and authoritative journal on the sub continent. The magazine is currently published by Afrimedia International Limited in the UK. Afrimedia is a subsidiary of state owned Graphic Communications Group, which is the majority shareholder. Graphic Group brought in Media Africa Group as a minority shareholder and assigned the management of Afrimedia to it. . Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the worlds oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.
Dominic Cooper, General Secretary, CIoJ London.
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