Hajia Fati: Press, power & politics
Media’s ire is focused on the slap meted out by NPP party faithful Hajia Fati to Adom FM journalist Sakyiwaa Ahwenepa as she was reporting at NPP party headquarters.
Hajia Fati would then go on air; admit she had slapped the journalist, claim she had mistaken her for an onion seller. She has now apologized – hardly an apology though – she is claiming the slap was a “mistake”. This is nonsense and should not be accepted. Fati did not ‘mistakenly slap’ a journalist, she did so deliberately, recklessly and believing there would be no consequence to her action.
This latest attack adds to the 17 incidents of attacks on journalists in 2018. It comes in the wake of Accra celebrating World Press Freedom day with a speech by President Nana Akufo-Addo that was lauded by the foreign journalists who attended.
I was sitting at lunch with a group of foreign journalists during World Press Freedom Day’s International Conference who told me it was simply the best speech on press freedom that they had heard from a president.
The President said of the media:-
“I much prefer the boisterous, scurrilous media of today than the monotonous, praise-singing sycophantic one of yesteryear. The Ghanaian media has enriched the nation’s governance by its curiosity, investigative skills and persistence.”
He added that according to Reporters without Borders, Ghana is the Number 1 country in Africa on the Global Press Freedom Index.
There are multiple ironies here.
I am thinking about those same journalists as less than one week later a journalist is assaulted in their line of duty and a government responds initially with silence. That silence is finally followed by a lukewarm press statement from the party after radio stations turned their platforms into bully pulpits issuing a stark warning to the government that no coverage of their upcoming congress would take place unless and until they address this attack.
The NPP party statement is a poor attempt at silencing the growing anger and critique by the media towards an assault on one of their own.
Fati is a symbol of recklessness by a government that espouses rule of law, welcomes a rigorous media, advocates for discipline and respect – and is then utterly silent when one of their own flouts every single thing they claim to stand for.
The World Press Freedom day theme was ‘keeping power in check’ – only for the power to go unchecked and abused by one of the party faithful less than one week later.
The party’s statement signed by the NPP General Secretary John Boadu was less a statement of action but more one of appeasement.
It read in part:-
“ We distance ourselves from the act and condemn it unreservedly. The party wishes to assure Ghanaian journalists that, it respects and cherishes the role of the media as partners in development and does not condone any action intended to suppress press freedom.”
Frankly, it read more like a response to CitiCBS – the morning talk show of Citi FM – host Bernard Avle’s on air stark threat to the Government; fail to take action on this assault and no reporter from Citi FM will cover your upcoming congress.
Threatened with the imminent cut off from the oxygen of publicity, a seemingly hurriedly penned statement was issued.
It does not suffice. It should not satisfy. Hypocrisy is not funny. Inaction is dangerous.
The President also highlighted the Guillermo Cano winner, Mohammed Abu Zeid is a journalist who – as a result of taking photos – was jailed.
Less than one week later, here in Accra a journalist taking photos would be assaulted by this President’s party faithful.
Lauding press freedom while doing little to act in response to an admitted assault by a party faithful against a journalist is problematic, to say the least.
What do your powerful words in defence of freedom of the press mean when faced with assault and abuse by one of your own against that very press, language is replaced by silence and inaction?
oxygen & oxymorons
Mother’s Day is Sunday. All over Ghana and across America, hotels will be sold out as special brunches will be served honoring and thanking mothers for the invaluable ways they shape and influence our lives. Thousands of flowers will be delivered, gifts bought and dedications made. In Ghana, we will rock our finery, snap pictures, kiss mothers’ cheeks and speechify. At Churches, sermons will be delivered offering verbal praise songs to the impact and importance of mothers.
As we celebrate mothers, the horrors of our healthcare when women seek to give birth in order to become mothers requires scrutiny. Maternal health care in Ghana is too often a horror story even as a society reveres mothers.
This is a particular hypocrisy that irks.
In March, a nine-week-old baby boy died at the St Gregory Hospital at Kasoa in the Central Region because his parents could not afford the oxygen machine required to help him breathe. An on duty medical doctor cut off the child’s oxygen due to the parents’ inability to cough up GhC533 to keep their son alive.
On Mother’s Day, Prosper’s mother will be reminded she is not a mother because this nation will privilege money over mothers and their new borns.
I live in a nation where money is always found for death; and excuses are always given for a failure to protect life.
Getting to the hospital to get healthcare can be an equally dire road for would be mothers.
The National Ambulance Service is under fire after a mother lost her baby due to the lack of oxygen on board an ambulance as she was driven to hospital. In Ghana, there are only 55 functioning ambulances nation-wide.
In January, Ghana’s Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyemang Manu said the government would deliver 275 new ambulances for use in districts across the country. This was part of the government’s one district, one ambulance policy.
The sloganeering and praise singing regarding mothers is sickening when we take account of the ways in which women die due solely to a poverty of effective, maternal health care.
When you line this up against the built hospitals minus any actual staff or working facilities, rising numbers of unemployment and doctors sitting at home minus work but post education, you can only shake your head in wonder at this oxymoron. Put the factors together and how do we not conclude we have a disgrace of a maternal health care system? We should starve the oxygen of reverence towards mothers on one day of the year; and instead focus energy on planning and implementing the range of necessary services to actually elevate and deliver maternal health care.
What is the basic standard of care for a woman expecting a child? What is being done – as a priority – to ensure such standards are being met?
As a nation, the treatment millions of women receive as they engage in giving birth should horrify us. Too often, within elements of the media, we report an individual story; lament and lambast – and then move on to the next story.
There are moments of respite and relief.
The philanthropic efforts by Ghana’s First Lady, Hon. Rebecca Akufo-Addo who raised funds and opened the Mother and baby unit at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) ,in Kumasi are important and will save lives. As will the 100 incubators bought by Despite CEO, Mr Osei Kwame.
Generosity is wonderful. Philanthropy matters. Philanthropy is no substitute for policy. Impactful, effective, implemented healthcare policy is one of the crucial steps to resurrecting a flat-lining maternal health care systems. How does a nation revere mothers and so profoundly neglect the process necessary to become mothers?
Laced together, such issues present a total picture of neglect, disregard and political ambivalence.
On this Mother’s Day, as we celebrate our Mothers, I invite us to think of Prosper’s mother, and the thousands who have lost babies due to failures of maternal health care.
Prosper is a symbol of a nation’s horrific maternal health care. Prosper’s mother deserves better.