Letter From The President: What I (dis)like about journalists

Wed, 11 May 2005 Source: J. A. Fukuor/Daily Dispatch

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents,

I always feel good when I get an opportunity to ?give it? to journalists. When my attention was drawn to the fact that last Tuesday was observed as international press freedom day, I decided that I have a fine opportunity to do pay them back. They always been ?giving it? to me or they provide the platform for the citizens to ?give it? to me. So why should I let go of this opportunity to ?give it? back to them?

The irony is that in paying them back, I am just going to tell them what I like about them and make a few suggestions about the things they can do for me to like them even more. My press secretary says that these issues I am about to be raise should give me cause to dislike journalists. I agree with him. But you must understand that the things I dislike about journalists are the very things that make my government (and its officials) appear to do no wrong. So I have decided that the following are the things I (dis)like about the journalists in Sikaman.

I like the journalists in Sikaman because most of them are so embarrassingly ignorant. They don?t know anything. They lack the basic skills of their trade ? conducting basic research, interviewing with intelligence and writing intelligently. When I listen to the radio, I often hear journalists asking stupid questions ? questions I wouldn?t expect even a class one pupil to ask. Sometimes, I avoid reading the newspapers because some the grammar is so horrible ? so much so that if Queen Elisabeth were as powerful as she used to be, she would have ordered the incarceration of almost all Sikaman journalists. The journalists in Sikaman publish (and broadcast) nonsensical stories, which leave the citizens confused and ill-informed. They always pretend to know what they don?t know. So apart from being ignorant, they are also arrogant ? too proud to admit their ignorance and seek appropriate education and information. So when one of my ministers bamboozle them with bureaucratic terminologies they just nod their heads like lizards, pretending to have a grasp of whatever gibberish the official is speaking. Sikaman journalists would rather feign understanding than tell their sources (almost always a minister or public official) than to tell the source to come down to the level of ordinary Kwesi Atta, who the journalists are supposed to be serving. At the end of the day, ordinary Kwesi Atta gets even more confused after reading the newspapers or listening to the radio stations.

I also like Sikaman journalists because they are so gullible. I read a book on how to deal with the media when I was elected to become the Excellent One in 2001. The book said that one of the most important qualities of a good journalist is that he or she is supposed to be very skeptical ? difficult to convince. But I?ve realized that our journalists are rather very gullible. The swallow everything a minister (or president) says hook, line and sinker ? no questions asked. If I told them today that Angel Gabriel had invited me over for a roundtable discussion with the heavenly host, most of them will not ask any questions. Whatever the president or the minister says is like something St Luke should have written about ? it?s the gospel truth.

I also like our journalists because they revere me (and my ministers) so annoyingly much. Journalists are among the most prolific bootlickers and praise singers in Sikaman. All you have to do is to give them a brown envelope (or a black polythene) bag. The larger the package, the louder the praises they sing. Once you give them a good package, they get colour blind and everything you do is right. They will always find a justification for your incompetence and corruption. The bootlicking has become so flagrant that people think that I am ?in bed? with some journalists.

Another indication of their silly reverence for officialdom is that the president or the minister always, in their language, ?leads? ? that is to say that the minister?s boring, inconsequential speech should always be the top story in their newspapers or news bulletins. Useless presidential (and ministerial) speeches are more important than stories about citizens? inability to get clean drinking water or send their children to school. When a minister or the president does wrong, the Sikaman journalist (out of reverence) will do everything he can to ?help? the minister and keep his misdeeds out of the public eye. Very often in Sikaman the ministers who get exposed are those who refused to give a brown envelope or a black polythene bag. Am not saying that all Sikaman journalists take brown envelops to kill stories. An insignificant number of them are principled and professional enough to refuse brown envelopes and do the right things. But a lot of my ministers have told me about journalists who told them to ?pay up or get exposed?.

These are only a few of the things I like about journalists. But I think that I will like our journalists more and they will be doing their profession (and our democracy) a lot of good if they stopped doing the things I like to see them do. They should spend more time educating themselves and striving for professional excellence. Instead of jumping from one radio station to another spewing gibberish and misinforming the public on newspaper review programmes, they should spend time reading around ? educating themselves. An ignorant, arrogant, bootlicking journalist cannot educate anyone on any subject. For example, I will like to see newspapers with delightful layouts and stimulating news stories. I am also tired of seeing myself on the front pages of the newspapers everyday. I like the praise-singing but I think it is getting too much ? especially from journalists. Whatever happened to holding the president and his ministers accountable? I want our radio stations to strive to ?copy? the BBC. Our TV stations should also strive to copy CNN. There is nothing wrong with copying good standards. I am tired of hearing my own boring speeches played back over and over again on radio and see my bulging eyes and wrinkled face on TV. There are more interesting stories out there, please, go for them. I am not asking journalists to be ?objective?. Every newspaper and radio/TV station can have its stand on any given issue. I don?t care. I just want the truth to be told on all the issues which interest our people. I just want to see professionalism and excellence in media practice. I hope this is not too much to ask.

Media friendly,

J. A. Fukuor

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

Columnist: J. A. Fukuor/Daily Dispatch