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Mr journalist, concentrate on playing your watchdog role

Gja Logoo We must all encourage and support journalists to hold government to account

Thu, 28 Dec 2017 Source: Evron R. Hughes

...So, there's this journalist that I've admired from afar. Two days ago we had an encounter that made me reassess my view of him.

He had tagged The Memuneh, Chief Emeritus of Mischief, Nana Awere Damoah in a post in which he described the "One District One Factory" Initiative as the 'Scam of the Year" and proceeded to make categorically untrue statements, the principal one being his insistence that we, as in NPP, promised to build, by ourselves, factories in each district.

Not even corrections from my friend, Mansa Ake will dissuade him from proceeding with this view, and, worse, at some point, he 'screamed' (by writing in capital letters) that "THEY", i.e. the NPP did indeed promise same.

In the end, I lost my cool a little bit and said to him that he's parlaying a "BIG LIE". I apologise, not for stating the fact that he lied, but for momentarily losing my cool.

Anyways, not even extracts from our 2016 Manifesto, and from the 2017 Budget Statement, which are in black and white (the Manifesto was the colour version though) would persuade him, at which point I decided it was not worth engaging him anymore.

HOWEVER, I've been deeply worried over this incident.

Here is a journalist of some repute. Well-educated, with global exposure and reporting/corresponding gigs. You would expect that being intellectually rigorous, and factual would be part of his repertoire. Of course, beyond legitimate opinions.

I'm not a journalist, but the little I know is that opinions are faithful to facts first, before "feelings". Which is the more surprising why he would, in the face of incontrovertible facts, in black and white, be insistent on pursuing such a discordant view. I would have been happier even if he had said, listen, yes, you did not say for a fact that government would build factories, and yes you did say that it would be driven by the private sector, but I think it is impractical and that I suspect government would be exposing itself to contingent liabilities in executing such a programme. But no, he chose the path he did. Which is sad.

I'm troubled by this. And about aspects of the controversy over the appropriations for the Ministry of Special Development Initiatives. Are we entering a new normal where rational discourse will be impossible because there are no longer legitimate partners for such discourse? Should we be worried that we cannot expect to have the media play it's watchdog role without becoming tyrannical? I'm struggling to believe so. I've seen, and engaged with many journalists, on and offline, and I am confident that the vast majority are professionals who do their jobs well and will not cosy up to, nor get into bed with government at the expense of the national interest. And we must all encourage and support them to hold government to account.

Except that we must also not be oblivious to the real risk of the few who would choose to 'go rogue': for no reason at all than to satisfy a need to be relevant.

It will indeed be a sad day when that happens.

Anyways, let me take this opportunity to wish all my media friends a Happy New Year in advance. Keep keeping us on our toes. Never stop.

Columnist: Evron R. Hughes