Is the media failing Ghanaians or ‘King Agokorli’ is in town?

Interview Media File Photo

Thu, 6 Aug 2020 Source: Mustapha Iddrisu

Democracy promotes accountability that is why periodic elections are held for leaders to renew their mandates or otherwise. Periodic elections are avenues for assessment of the performance of our political leadership. However, our demand for accountability should not be limited to periodic elections alone. Decisions and policies of governments must be questioned and scrutinized to elicit further and better particulars. In this case, the role of the media is crucial to keep the feet of various government onto the fire of accountability. To what extend does the media in Ghana live up to this crucial role?

The editorial culture in Ghana does not allow the public to see the complete picture. They have chosen to jump from one story to another without logical conclusions. Many examples are abound in the media landscape as pointers: Nyantakyi and Charles Bissue’s bribery scandals as well as Ayawaso by election brutalities remain inconclusive. Furthermore, the recent cases of Airbus bribery issue, the galamsey scandal, missing excavators and tricycles require further probing than what have been churned out by the media. Even the subsequent rebuttal by the Former President of the airbus debacle did not find space in the media. Some journalists have decided to project lies and bury the truth.

Reducing very important national issues to mere propaganda has contributed to lowering standard of journalism. Investigative journalism has lost its steam or under attack in Ghana. The celebrated investigative journalists, Anas Armeriyaw Anas and Manasseh Azure Awuni, have now become villains due to high level of intolerance. Hence, majority of media players has decided to follow the political flow for fear of being victimized. Needless to say that the Ghanaian Media system, which has been considered the fourth estate of the realm, has been pluralized along partisan lines. Many journalists have been rightly or wrongly tagged as pro NPP or pro NDC and these have characterized our political discussions. Which political party wins a debate is the preoccupation of many media houses?

Very few insightful researches have been conducted on national discourses to enrich the noble profession. Some only advance the course of their paymasters, regardless of whether they are factual or not. All that they do is to repeat the speaking points, deceptions and lies of the so called masters. In a well-functioning democracy, the media is supposed to be the voice of the voiceless. However, the media players in Ghana have chosen to be the vanguard of politicians rather than the vanguard of the masses. The so-called senior journalists are now part of the powerful political elite they report on and intend to enjoy comfortable lifestyles with them.

Hence, a good number of them has compromised their journalistic standards and ethics. Many of these journalists view society from the angles of their stomach. Majority of journalists in Ghana has developed their own agendas which are in direct contradiction with the interest of ordinary citizens. Cognizant of democratic maxim that ‘power resides in the people’, more frontiers are expected from the Ghanaian media. Unfortunately, Ghana has currently produced what John Keane described as “the era of communicative abundance”. Plenty media discussions on the airways without substance.

Choosing to serve the very elites instead of the public can deform the sanctity of our democratic dispensation in the long run. Like many institutions in Ghana, Journalism has been intentionally politicized to serve only the ‘powers that be’. They have lost their sense of responsibility and intimately attached to political powers they should have held accountable. As a result, the quality of journalism has sunk to the lowest abyss in the country. The rights of journalists have been abused in recent times, yet the journalists themselves have lost encourage to confront the very people who abused them. If you cannot stand up for your rights, how can you fight for the rights of the masses?

The least said about Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the better. The sad news is that when the culture of journalism is lowered, it permeates to other institutions of state. Minister of Science and Environment allegedly involved in galamsey, yet the appointing authority refused to fire him. Presidential staffer caught on video taking bribe, but he still carries himself as such. The untidy investigations of the Australian visa scandal is still shocking to many Ghanaians. And recent case of Hawa Koomson, a Minister of State, who had decided to compete with hoodlums left many Ghanaians shocked. What is more shocking is the inability of the President to take decisive action on her. The deafening silence of both the moral and civil societies in the face of impunity is in itself ‘evil’.

For the majority of Ghanaians, the mass media is lubricants to influence public opinions. The media gives substance and legitimacy to the country's democracy. A genuine democracy open many communication channels for cross fertilization of ideas. The political parties, clergy, civil society organisations, journalists, academia and citizens must enjoy maximum freedom to contribute to national discourse. However, the boycott of Peace FM by NDC, the largest opposition party in Ghana, citing biasness on the part of the host, Kwami Sefa Kayi leaves the station poorer. Imposing one sided views on Ghanaians by a radio station only signals to media manipulations and self-seeking parochial interest.

There is no doubt that the Ghanaian media’s reportage on issues has been rather monotonous to say the least. The print media is the worst culprit of their ‘zombie’ front page stories. This section of media is so predictable to the extent that it seems they have the ‘same editorial policy’. Diversity of the media landscape has been crucial for multi-party democracy. Some media houses have been engaged in what has been best described as “yellow journalism.” It is therefore, no surprising that 72% of Ghanaians believe that the media is not free from state interference.

The vast majority of Ghanaians have resigned to their faith that almost all media houses would not give fair reportage for objective political discourse. It is only in Ghana that opposition party is held more accountable than the ruling government. Peter Hitchens did not mince words when he succinctly put it ‘a country where the media attack the opposition rather than the government is a country where freedom is under threat.’ This amply demonstrates the situation confronting the Ghanaian media under President Nana Akufo Addo. The journalists or media houses who have dared to be different, have been treated with disdain, revocation of licenses and even death. This culture of intolerance has led to an unfortunately situation that, the journalists are unable to question the current government for maladministration for fear of being victimized.

The media window has been distorted and to some extend shattered by poor journalism. It saddens the heart of many Ghanaians the closing down of radio stations by the NPP government perceived to be allies of the main opposition party. Crushing out opposing views amount to oppression and dictatorship. It seems the president views democracy and media freedom to the extent to which an opinion favours his government. If care is not taken, he would go down in history as the ‘doyen of media oppression’. It has emerged that the hallmark of the president’s leadership has been his tolerance for vigilantism and corruption. So anybody who questions them become their number one enemy. A good leader take compliments and criticisms in his or her strides.

The recent killing of Ahmed Sule of Tigereye Fame and the harassment of Manasseh Awuni Azure into exile have sent shivers into the media fraternity. The bizarre killing of Ahmed Sule on his line of duty remains a blot on our conscious. Never again!! It is shocking that a party that believe in "Development in Freedom" has to cow the media into submission. I am not surprised that Ghana's ranking in press freedom is at its lowest ebb. The brand that brought Nana Akufo into power as ‘the champion of media rights’ is fast weaning. The actions and inactions of this government have given credence to the creeping culture of intolerance. King Agorkorli never knew that power was transient. Leaders’ legacies are as important as holding onto fleeting power.

Sometimes, I feel ashamed of all attempts to bastardize our democracy in the name of ‘Four more For Nana.’ The desecration of Ghana Armed Forces for political gain is repugnant and shameful to put it mildly. Many party hoodlums or foot soldiers have been drafted into the army for political reasons. The sad news is that voices of wisdom have been cowed into silence in the country. Leadership should be mindful of profound statement of Wael Ghonim that ‘the power of the people is greater than the people in power.

Columnist: Mustapha Iddrisu