Dog don't eat dogs? (3) Please refer!

Thu, 21 Oct 2021 Source: Cameron Duodu

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If you are one of the nice people who have taken the trouble to congratulate me (even if it's only in your mind!) about my articles on “Dog Don't eat dog”, I refer you to the article below, which was published SEVEN YEARS AGO!

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,

I belong to your Fraternity/Sorority. And I am aware that we often tell one another, rather ungrammatically, “Dog don't eat dog!”

But it is a false notion. For some papers deliberately slash their cover price, in order to force competitors to do the same and – go out of business! Isn't that a subtle example of “dog eat dog”?

As regards what journalists could be up to, in competing amongst themselves, read …. [yiee, did I hear myself say “read”?] a novel called Scoop by the British writer, Evelyn Waugh?

Ladies and Gentlemen, pardon the impertinence, but when did any of you last read a good novel? Or a book on journalism, for that matter! – [if you want to argue that you are so busy that you can't read books to entertain yourself!] Surely, reading about your own profession would be profitable, no?

Please pardon the impertinence, but I find that most Ghanaian newspapers can be read in ten minutes flat! That is when they can be found and bought! Why are newspapers no longer sold at street corners and even within the traffic along the main roads? Where are the “Distribution Managers” employed by newspapers [oh, Willie Cooke, where are you?”]who used to make sure that their newspapers were sold in all leading shops and hotel news-stands?

I remember a time when the then Sunday Mirror, [now The Mirror] sister paper of the Daily Graphic, was edited by a person so literate that he sought out and serialised NOVELS!!

What? Yes!-- both People of the City and Jagua Nana, by Cyprian Ekwensi, a writer who was not even a Ghanaian but a Nigerian, were serialised in the Sunday Mirror! That paper was so readable by all classes of people that the inimitable E T Mensah was inspired to write a song about that paper, entitled “Sunday Mirror! It is a lovely paper!... It costs you nothing but tuppence! – It costs you, nothing – Kuumkpaanyor!”

The first short story to be published in Ghana by our novelist, Ayi Kwei Armah, was the winning entry in a short story competition organised by the so-called 'girlie magazine', Drum. The story was called The Offal Kind. Why do I remember that? It's because (I won't hide under the cloak of false modesty in this tell-all article, thank you very much!) I happened to be editor of Drum at the time and was hell-bent on helping to promote the arts in Ghana. In case you think I am boasting, I dare you to do some research and try to prove that we did not aim high! Or try to be aspirational.

But what do you guys publish these days?

Endless reams of press releases and PR fluff.

Stodgy rationalisations of why public expectations of good service or proficient manufacturing, cannot be met.

Boring, illogical, irrelevant and waffling features, sometimes by columnists many of whom have nothing relevant to say but write as if they have paid features editors to get their names into print, to satisfy their vanity.

No real topicality (repeat ten times).

Little or no internal logic (repeat eight times).

No educative content (repeat six times).

No surprising or new information imparted (repeat four times).

Nothing to entertain the reader (repeat twice)

Nothing worth reading even if one is bored and would welcome a distraction!! (Just repeat that).

Worse, you seldom follow up any real news when you occasionally publish any such thing. In fact, real news seems to constitute an awful bother, as far as the laziest among you are concerned.

I'm not being fair? Okay – when did you last pester our taciturn police force to divulge to the public, the reason on why we haven't heard anything – repeat – anything, about the prosecution of the people arrested in connection with the murder of 72-year-old Madam Amma Hemmah, who was burnt alive and killed at Tema at 10 a.m. on November 20, 2010, having been mistaken for a witch!?

How many articles have you published about dementia, or Alzheimer's Disease, to alert the public that loss of memory in senior citizens does not necessarily indicate 'witchcraft' in them but a diminution of something called synapses in the organ we call the brain? When did you last feature the “witches'"

camps” in Northern Ghana? Has trokosi vanished from Ghana? When did you last shine the torch of publicity on it? Is galamsey a dead issue?

What happened to the soldiers who assaulted your fellow journalists during the parade marking the 56th anniversary of Ghana's independence at Black Star Square in Accra on March 6, 2013? When the armed forces PR department lied to you, about the assault inflicted on your own colleagues, what was your initial reaction?

Furthermore, what happened to the case involving the collapse of a shopping centre in Accra in November 2012? Some Ghanaians were killed? Tough, right?

Or where are the reports on the rampant outbreaks of fire at markets, both in Accra, Kumasi and elsewhere? Ah, if the Government has got the reports but won't publish them, what business is it of yours, huh? That is how you see it? Then what's the meaning of the concept that the media are the “watchdog” of modern society? Do you know that you are put above the Government when it comes to ensuring that the public welfare is maintained at all times, the Government apparently being the chief perpetrator of negligence in most countries?

If you don't believe that, please just find out what the NSA and GCHQ have been doing in the USA and Britain. Yes – the USA and Britain, those self-styled bastions of liberal democracy. Suppose the media in those countries were as sleepy as our own, would we ever have heard of the numerous official abuses of citizens' privacy, that those organisations have been carrying out, in the name of state security?

Did you do any independent investigation at all of the case in which a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer allegedly stabbed and killed a suspected robber in our country – at Wa – in July 2012? Can you imagine what would happen to any Ghanaian – accredited diplomats included – who stabbed and killed someone in the USA?

Did you know that the United States embassy asked for money to indoctrinate Ghanaian officialdom and the public on genetically modified foods? Have you tried to find out whether the US Congress has ever passed a law that empowers the US embassy to use America's public funds to act as an agent of private companies like Monsanto?

Listen, guys. Journalism in Ghana wasn't always as lame as you've made it, you know? In 1967, the National Liberation Council (NLC) Government, having booted out the Kwame Nkrumah Government and accusing it of dictatorship, found it conscionable to dismiss the editors of the state-owned press – Moses Danquah (editor-in-chief of The Ghanaian Times), John Dumoga (Supervising Editor of The Daily Graphic) and Henry Thompson (Editor of The Evening News) for volubly questioning the terms under which the Government had disposed of the State-owned GIHOC Pharmaceuticals Corporation and handed it to an American company called Abbott Laboratories.

This led to a crisis for the NLC, for the NLC?s own Commissioner of Information, the incomparable K G Osei Bonsu, resigned – the first and only time a Ghanaian Cabinet Minister had voluntarily resigned his post in defence of a principle, namely, freedom of expression!

Ha! The NLC, trying to be clever, didn't tell yours truly the circumstances under which Mr Dumoga had been sacked, but offered yours truly the editorship of the Daily Graphic! They were sure yours truly would accept the job, because he and Mr Dumoga had quarrelled publicly on how to run an efficient newspaper!

But purely on intuition – and totally unprompted – yours truly told Mr L K Apaloo, the then Cabinet Secretary, that if there was ever a conflict between the public interest and the Government interest, yours truly would take sides with the public interest! The offer was withdrawn forthwith and he never heard back from the NLC!

But three years later, yours truly was again offered the editorship of the Daily Graphic. And guess what? He came up against the public interest conundrum again: on an issue involving whether Ghana should entertain “Dialogue-with-South Africa”,

he plumbed for his own principles against those of the Government that had appointed him and he was dismissed!

Guys, please raise a glass to the illustrious fighters for freedom of the Press in our ranks who are no longer with us! To Moses Danquah! To John Dumoga!. To Henry Thompson. To Tommy Thompson! To John Kugblenu! To Eben Quarcoo!

They too had families to feed. But they did what they thought was right for their country. Above all, they informed themselves well of what was going on in their country and told their fellow countrymen what they thought of it. They used the freedom that was the bedrock of their thinking, unfettered by self-censorship (voluntarily imposed through greed or cowardice or both.

They were not the type of journalists to be found on our radio stations braying extremely loudly like a hungry ass, day in day out. Making no sense. Spewing lies. Peddling illogicality. Mostly for money.

These journalists allowed the sale of Merchant Bank to Fortiz to go through; they connived at the GYEEDA rip-off of public funds; they pussyfooted over SUBAH; they winked at the misapplication of the Media Development Fund and pretended that no money could be filched from the distribution of laptops to schools and journalists.

Columnist: Cameron Duodu