Media freedom must accompany responsibility

Tue, 13 Jan 2015 Source: Blege, Alex

“…Stroke of my pen”: Media freedom must accompany responsibility.

Alex Blege

No individual desires to have his or her freedom clipped. Everyone desires that he or she should be allowed to do whatever pleases him or her. This is how the human race was made.

On the contrary, freedom does not walk alone, it walks with responsibility. It can be compared to a child and its mother; separating them is an attempt to deny the child a motherly love and the mother, the exercising of a natural duty to show love, care and concern.

The above analogy can be used to discuss media freedom and responsibility in Ghana. Media analysts have posited that the media is the fourth estate of the realm, the media is a watchdog of society; who watches the watchdog?

In all of the above, the media seeks to create a bar of responsibility in all spheres of society, thereby seeking to create pretty nearly a utopia society. This is worth the plaudits of all and sundry.

However, as the media seeks to create a pretty nearly utopia society, what are the guiding principles that inform how far, how wide, or how deep the journalist should go or what are the values that define our society in the course of exercising a professional right?

As stated in the beginning paragraph, no individual wants to have his or her freedom clipped, it is of much concern to acknowledge that media is an aspect of society; therefore, the media itself must seek to consistently see how it is unfair to divorce freedom of the media from the responsibility of the media.

Every society is guided by legal principles and moral values. It is not wrong to learn from others, but it is a sign of innovation and lack of self-esteem to copy others exactly without taking into consideration the legal, cultural and moral values that informs the ideas we tend to copy.

Media freedom and responsibility is a universal phenomenon. We interact with other peoples of the world; the world is a global village and what relates to one group of people is probable to relate to another group of people.

Be that as it may, as we live in the globalised world, we as professionals should identify how our intrinsic values that define us as Africans and Ghanaians relate with the norm and charters of the larger world when it comes to media freedom and responsibility.

Media theorists have argued that, audiences are discerning; the audiences have the ability to determine what is false and true. Again, it is worthy to note that the power of the media to influence their audience is very high.

In fact, people take whatever the media puts out as wholly true. Our values that are transmitted to us through African folktales never extols acts of telling lies about people or trying to making heavier the emotional burdens of our kith and kin.

The African lives by the principle of the Bantu dictum, “umuntu, ngumuntu nquabantu” to wit, “a human is human because of other humans”. In Ghana, among the Ewes of the Volta Region, it is “am3n) vi eny3 am3”.

Albeit, this principle has sometimes been used to further selfish interests, it still upholds the value that guides our positive attitudes and behaviours which we show towards our own families and friends in times of emotional distress.

Chinua Achebe, noted at one point that, “it is not enough for us that our art should merely report the nature of things; it should change it.” As the media reports attacks on itself, the media should begin to take a deep look into its activities and pragmatically make efforts that will make responsibility a twin of the freedom that is sought.

Responsibility should be consistently discussed; when the media seeks to be free from all the checks that sections of society desire to place on it, the media can make a case of checking its self.

In addition, the emergence of social media poses a great burden of showing how responsibility is upheld by the media. Journalism in the social media is slightly different from what goes on in the traditional media.

This call for discussion on how issues that are reported in social media can meet responsible standards without gagging the new media. The Ghana Journalists Association must begin to initiate this discussion of self-regulating its members to avoid the issue of the consistent attacks that are meted out to members of the media.

Journalism is a dignified profession that must not be seen advocating being only free to operate; it must equally check itself and behave responsibly.

This gives the impetus to the media to be professionally aggressive in the course of their duty to do follow-up on running stories, demand accountability from all those who have been given the privilege to serve the interest of society at one level or the other.

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Columnist: Blege, Alex