8
Opinions Sat, 2 Aug 2003

A Threat To Our Infantile Democracy

In Ghana today, the biggest threat to our national security, and our continued existence as one Nation, is the private media. There are many Ghanaians who think that Rawlings is the biggest threat. Ofcourse, Rawlings by his history alone and unstateman behavior is a threat, but he is far from being the biggest threat. The private media is!

Yes, the media is the best means by which we can eradicate corruption from our society, and I'm sure it was for this reason that President Kufuor had the criminal libel law scrapped. But this is when they are acting in a responsible manner. When the media keep people in government on their toes by doing honest reportage on them, we the people appreciate it. They therefore have an important role to play in our development. That is what they should be about. Sadly, this is not the case in our country.


The private media in Ghana is so appalling that more than 50% of the time they carry sensational headlines that has nothing, whatsoever, to do with the actual story behind the headlines. They seem to have the wrong notion that such sensational headlines are what will sell their papers. But if they would only learn from their own history of poor sales they would have realized that that is not the trick. Yes, once in a while a person might buy a newspaper with a catching headline, but after that person has read the news story and has realized that it had nothing to do with the sensational headline that will be the last time he/she will purchase that paper. Every headline from that paper will from then on be perceived as a bunch of lies even when they really are not.


A good image is one thing the private media has not sought to achieve. The recent calling by Dr. Sam Jonah to the print media especially the private ones to exercise some decorum and be circumspect in their reportage is therefore a call that needs to be heard by all those in the media. It is by time, we demand a media fit for the democratic path that our country is treading. We are currently in the process of reforming all our National Institutions, and our media needs not be left out of these reformations. We are tired of the low standards and indiscipline that they exhibit. I am not speaking for myself, but for all those who are concerned by how they do their duties. By the grace of the Almighty God, we currently have a truly democratic President and government who are very tolerant and resort to the rule of law. The only ones in our society today who usurp their roles are the media.


How many lies have they not carried? How many irresponsible stories that try to pitch one tribe against the other have they not published? And how many personalities have they not concocted complete lies about just to destroy their hard-earned reputations or to wage their own personal vendetta against to protect their own selfish interests? What was the point of all the attack on the person of people like Dr. Wereko-Brobbey, and the Asantehene?


There are many historians who are of the strong conviction that the hatred between the Hutus and the Tutsis that led to the genocide in that part of the continent was for a large extent propagated by the media. The media in Rwanda for a long time raised tribal tension to astronomic levels by wagging a relentless war of words that pitched the Hutus against the Tutsis. This over time was translated from words to actions. And we are all witnesses to the evils that happened. It is for this sole reason that I want to appeal to our men in the private media, be they Fantis, or Dagombas or not; be they NPP loyalists or NDC faithfuls or not; be they worshippers of personalities or not, to let their sense of patriotism as noble citizens of mother Ghana to prevail. I appeal to them to them to agree to disagree and even when they attack their opponents to do it in such a civil way that will portray us in good light to the world. There is an old Iraqi adage which goes something like “I and my brother will join hands to fight our cousin, and I and my cousin will join hands to fight the stranger”. This should be our philosophy – we may disagree on every thing, but when it comes to matters of National Security and National interests let us put aside all our other interests and think of nothing but Ghana’s interests.

I'm all for a responsible press. One that will join the government side-by-side to criticize or attack when due with the sole purpose of protecting the people's interest, and not one that will make malicious comments and unintelligible arguments about a topic for which they lack the basic knowledge of. Sometimes, i wonder whether our journalists take the time to do a decent research on their stories to ascertain the veracity of the story and to educate themselves about topics for which they have no prior training in so that they can present intelligible arguments to us. They fall short a lot when it comes to this. Some of these media houses, I’m forced to doubt whether they have an editorial board that takes the time to go through all the news items they want to carry to make sure that they will serve the interest of the Nation.


I read with surprised the cry for a fair share advertisements in the private media by the new PRINPAG president, Mrs. Gina Blay. She stated that the private media envy the Daily Graphic and the Times when it comes to advertisement. It would have been much more appreciated if Mrs. Blay had said that the private media envy the professionalism and the high editorial standards of the Daily Graphic and the Times. It is easy to envy a person's wealth and resources, but what is not envied is the hard work that goes into the creation of such wealth and resources. The Daily Graphic and Times are state-owned, but these are papers that are so successful that they are able to resource themselves without the state's intervention. I am sure that any hardworking and truthful private newspaper can also make that much in terms of revenue if they adopt such higher standards.


If the private media will let our National Security and National Interests be their main goal and will not lower their standards to the level of a mere platform for waging personal vendettas and for destroying innocent personalities or for waging political war of words that has no benefit for the country, then only will they earn first the respect of the people and with it their money. They have to set higher standards for themselves. This is the key!


Ato Kwamena
Chicago, USA


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

Columnist: Kwamena, Ato