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In Solidarity With The Fraternity

Mon, 9 Apr 2007 Source: GNA

(A GNA Feature by Mohammed Nurudeen Issahaq)

Bolgatanga, April 7, GNA - There was this interesting man in my village who never missed a funeral occasion. When the solemn part of the ceremony was over, he would get up and announce, "Please lend me your ears! If there is anyone here today who knows he or she would attend my funeral when I die, let them give me their contributions now while I am still alive."

The announcement would draw chuckles from the crowd, but he meant business. He would take his cap off his head and hold it around like a bowl, and sympathizers would drop little notes and coins in it. When he had gone round full cycle, he would shout "Thank you. May I rest in peace."

Public response to the death and funeral celebration of the late Samuel Ennin, the late Ashanti Regional Chairman of the Ghana Journalists Association (May his soul rest in peace) has been overwhelming, to say the least. The expressions of sympathy, condemnation, empathy and anger have been simply amazing. Above all, the high profile burial ceremony attended by no less a personality than President J.A. Kufuor himself, accompanied by the First Lady, the Asantehene and prominent Ministers of State, leaves no one in doubt about how cordial government-media relations in this country is today, in spite of occasional excesses on the part of the latter.

Please don't get me wrong. Before I go on further with this discussion, I wish to register that the scenario recounted in the opening paragraphs above is not to imply that Sam died a needy man (even though many a journalist in the country today have difficulties making ends meet). Nor is it an attempt to undermine the sympathy shown by the general public in the wake of that most unfortunate incident involving the late Samuel Ennin. Far from it!

The entire event, however, is rather unprecedented. In deed, it underscores the fact that in spite of the condemnation and name-calling journalists have had to put up with, the Ghanaian public really appreciates their good works. You know, just like lambasting journalists for being "konkonsa" or nosy, and yet patronizing with relish the tabloids that churn out scandal, gossip and muck.

On the whole, it could also be intepreted as a pointer to the healthy fact that the Ghanaian media landscape is a vibrant one, and that journalists in this country, despite all their shortcomings, are playing the role expected of them in the sustenance of the ongoing democratic dispensation. Certainly, it is a great feeling knowing that one's effort is being appreciated and, as a matter of fact, the Head of State's appearance at the funeral of the late Regional GJA Chairman came as no surprise at all to many a journalist.

However, the greatest legacy to Sam's memory, and the wish of many among the Inky Fraternity, is that this wonderful demonstration of public sympathy and support be translated into public advocacy for better conditions of service for journalists in our land. It would motivate them to work even harder and strengthen their resolve to soldier on in the cause of truth and social justice. Ultimately, it would be to the benefit of society.

Under the present circumstances, remuneration for journalists nationwide, especially those working with the State-owned media, is nothing to write home about. With no intention whatsoever to provide any justification, it ought to be acknowledged that this deficiency has been the primary reason for unprofessional conduct such as sacrificing truth for the Cedi and other related ills for which journalists in the country are being blamed.

The fact remains that a well-paid reporter would be more capable of resisting the temptation to ask for "soli" than his poorly paid colleague, for instance. Low self-esteem and the lack of assertiveness on the part of many a media practitioner are to a large extent the result of poor remuneration and unsatisfactory conditions of service. The situation translates into sub-standard performance, including the reluctance to go the extra mile for a good story, the lack of initiative, partisan reportage and other unprofessional traits. And while we are at it, it goes without saying that the prayer of every journalist this Easter should be for the Good Lord to assist the security agencies with divine intelligence to enable them to bust Samuel Ennin's murderers before too long. That would surely be a memorable day; the screaming headlines and all!

Just as with the Freedom of Information Bill, time is a ripe to solicit public support in persuading Government and the Boards of media organizations to take a bold step to review the conditions of service of journalists. It is logical to contend that having gained freedom, the other important ingredients that would enhance the professionalism and performance of the Ghanaian journalist are training opportunities and the creation of conditions that would motivate them to give of their best. No wonder, at one of the meetings of the Inky Fraternity, someone muted the idea that a plea be made to His Excellency the President to consider including it in his Special Initiatives. 07 April 07

Columnist: GNA