The Ghanaian Media And Our National Agenda

Thu, 6 Aug 2009 Source: Mensah, Richard Obeng

“All agencies of the mass media shall, at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this Constitution, and shall uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of Ghana” – Article 162(5) 1992 Constitution.

President Barack Hussein Obama truly schooled us by reiterating what we ought to know and practice by stating that Africa, and for that matter Ghana, needs strong institutions (not strong men), in his inaugural address to the Ghanaian Parliament on 11th July, 2009. Obama is right for emphasising the fact that democratic societies, such as Ghana, need strong legislature, independent judiciary, independent electoral commission and of course the free and independent press.

The Media as the Fourth Estate of the Realm

In all civilised societies, the executive, legislature and judiciary are officially christened and recognised as the main arms government. The executive organ formulates and implements policies, the legislature exercises law making function, whiles the judiciary adjudicates disputes through the erudite interpretation and enforcement of enacted laws, taking ccognisance of public interest, public policy and public order. Although the aforementioned organs of government are deemed independent of each other, they nevertheless operate side by side to ensure check and balances in the governmental process so as to safeguard public good. Aside these three main arms of government, the media is highly recognised today as the fourth estate of the realm. The media serves as the mouthpiece of the populace by playing a watchdog role over the main arms of government and the society in general.

The Role of the Mass Media

Of a truth, the priceless role of the press in modern societies cannot be downplayed. The principles of democracy, good governance, human rights, probity and accountability and the ilk continue to perform their critical functions in cilivised societies because the media is unremittingly championing their application in governmental processes. The media immensely contributed to the fight against slave trade, colonization, racism, segregation and apartheid. Today, it is still a force to reckon with in the declared war against abuse of power in public offices, dictatorship, terrorism, drug cartel, child trafficking, child pornography, child prostitution, sex trade, illegal abortion, domestic violence, robbery and international crimes.

This is not only true in Ghana but the world over. However, certain unprofessional practices are penetrating the ranks of the Ghanaian media which set tones that threaten the growth and development of this country. This article will uncover and discussed some of them. It is worth noting that whiles the media serves as a watchdog over the various arms of government and the society as a whole, the public does so over it.

Media Injustice

Police brutality, police corruption and mob action are common place in the Ghanaian society. Commendably, the mass media is unyielding in joining forces with human rights organisations and other civil society groups in kicking against these ills. Hypocritically however, the media in some other ways, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, happens to add salt to these injuries. This is plainly revealed in the way some media houses carry out their reportage especially on suspected crime-related matters such as alleged theft, robbery, financial malfeasance against public officials and sexual offences. In the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, presumption of innocence is steadfastly guaranteed. It is however a sad commentary that this is not the case among most Ghanaian media houses. Alleged perpetrators of some offences are pronounced ‘guilty’ even before they have their day at the law courts. This undeniably further weakens the dwindling public confidence in the Ghanaian public institutions, such as the judiciary, if it later turns out that such alleged perpetrators are absolved of any wrong doing by a law court or any other quasi investigative or adjudicative body.

Bribery and Corruption

Bribey and corruption is one of the major diseases creeping and hindering the accelerated growth and development of the Ghanaian economy. Whilst the mass media should be given thumbs up for tirelessly assisting in the crusade for its elimination or reduction, it is blameworthy in some sense. In my articles entitled: ‘The Media, not Immune to Corruption,’ ‘Our Hypocrisy is Killing Us (Part 2)’ and ‘The Direction for Our Forward Movement,’ the first two and the third which respectively received considerable media publications in the middle of last year and early this year, thoroughly lobotomised this assertion. Lamentably, some media houses serve as the mouthpiece for the strong, the vociferous, the rich and the propagandists who are able to oil the palms of some news reporters, presenters and editors to ‘sell’ their message to the public regardless of its attendant harmful repercussions.

Suffice to say that some media houses continue to ‘kill’ news worthy events, which are usually socially oriented, thereby making them not to see the light of publication because, perhaps, such news reporter, presenter or editor in question was not ‘motivated’ by the informant.

Besides, some news reporters troop to programmes they have not been officially invited to cover just with the primary aim of receiving money from the organizers of such programmes in order to ‘sell’ their concerns or communiqué to the public. I have personally witnessed this issue in several seminars or workshops I happened to be one of the organizers or a participant.

In addition, some political parties and so-called politicians are today able to champion their unhealthy propaganda in the media just because they have what it takes to pay for their publication.

Lack of Objectivity

It is a trite knowledge that the Ghanaian media is too critical especially in the field of sports and partisan politics. Destructive criticisms are the order of the day. Whilst there is no gainsaying the fact that it may not be unprofessional for a media house to support the cause of a political party or other social groups, it should be acknowledged that such tendencies should not in anyway override public interest, national security, public order and public morality. Sense of objectivity and constructive discourse should guard any motive behind panel discussions, news editorials and news reportage. In fact, editorial freedom should not be exercised egoistically. When this is done, the mass media will not only be an exemplary to the populace but also strive to see the end or sincerely go to the bottom of all issues upon which the Ghanaian society aches.

The Way Forward

Firstly, the National Media Commission (NMC) and other media organisations such as the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) must be commended for their painstaking efforts in uprooting the above aberrant happenings. They must however be more proactive and action-oriented. The Commission should also not cave in as it carries out its constitutional mandate of insulating the state-owned media from governmental control.

Secondly, the various media houses should also recruit and employ persons with the requisite professional qualifications coupled with high moral character and proven integrity. Besides, there should internal checks in their operations to ensure the establishment and maintenance of the highest journalistic standards in this country. Furthermore, their conditions of service should be commensurate to the current socio-economic demands and realities.

Thirdly, the Ghanaian public should also be up and doing in ensuring that the mass media is treading the path that will promote national unity, peace, security, law and order, freedom and justice. Remember that the public must be the watchdog of the media. We must really ensure that the press operates for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of all persons.

Richard Obeng Mensah; borncapy@yahoo.com, author of ‘If You Think of Your Opposition You Lose Your Position’ and ‘Persecutions are Promotions’. He is the 2009 National Best Student Author/Writer.

Columnist: Mensah, Richard Obeng