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Why, oh, why, this Mills government?
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Why, oh, why, this Mills government?

Thu, 22 Mar 2012 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The decision by the government to boycott the auspices of the Multi-Media News Group is not only stupid but also cowardly and misplaced.

In an election year, every responsible government will maximize every opportunity to propagate its message to the citizenry in the hope of informing them, allaying their fears and doubts, and preparing them to make informed choices at the polls. It won’t do anything to shoot itself into the foot and alienate anybody in the voter population.

Unfortunately, the Mills-led government is doing so, shooting itself in the foot and coming across as terrified, giddy, and unsure of how to manage its affairs. With this posture, who will root for it?

The government should rescind that decision immediately and apologize to the management of Multi-Media News Group and all other identifiable people and institutions that its shoddy handling of communication tasks has angered.

And the Multi-Media News Group has conquered a huge swath of the Ghanaian listening, reading, and watching populace, which a responsible government must position itself to profit from instead of relying on its monopoly of the state-owned media to do its bidding.

The Multi-Media News Group comprises Joy FM, Multi TV, Adom FM, Asempa FM and other sister media houses across the country. Its operations serve those of us in the diaspora too, and we definitely will expect our government to act responsibly in its relationship with such news outlets. But that is not what the Mills government is doing, which annoys us.

Instead of being paranoid and wasting time looking for excuses to run away from public scrutiny, the government should be bold enough to use every available means to reach out to the people. It must be prepared to take the good with the bad and present a better public image than what it has done with this boycott of the Multi-Media News Group.

A major flaw in the motivation for the government’s desperate action shouldn’t be lost on us. Despite the claim that the government made that decision in protest against the Multi-Media News Group’s bias against it, there is every indication that something else is behind this dastardly move.

It is clear that the government’s communication team has flopped and opened the government up for frontal attack from its opponents and others segments of the populace with critical minds seeking to query government’s stewardship on all fronts.

The government seems ill-prepared to be confronted with such quizzes; hence, its hasty decision to avoid the scrutiny, especially in the open discussions that go on under the auspices of the Multi-Media News Group and other news media. The claim of bias is just a sorry excuse to be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.

The incident cited by the government’s spokesman (Deputy Information Minister, James Agyenim Boateng) to justify the government’s boycott is lame and inadmissible. Was it the management of the Multi-Media News Group that instigated the NPP activists to do what they did? Was that even the first time that a party’s followers would do such a thing? And were the security agents not deployed to tackle the problem?

More intriguingly, how would an apology from Multi-Media News Group or reporting the incident by its affiliates have prevented a recurrence of such an incident in future? Or, how would the apology help the government solve its credibility problems?

It is undeniable that the government has very huge credibility problems in every sense. It is alarming, which is probably why the government is backpedalling instead of owning up and finding better ways to handle matters.

The government has worsened its case in one other way. It has taken over a role that should have been left for the NDC as a political party to play. This issue is explosive, and I will try to explain it as best as I can in the next article. Stay tuned for it, then.

Back to my main stance. I am still not persuaded that boycotting the forum of the Multi-Media News Group will help the NDC solve the problems hindering its propaganda efforts. In all senses, it will compound those problems and worsen the government’s credibility problems. More pointedly, it will deny the government the medium it needs to broaden its outreach efforts.

What happens if the other private media turn on the heat and the government accuses them of bias and boycotts their forums too? Won’t it amount to strangling itself? Or ceding the floor to its opponents to have a field day in propagating their messages? And, certainly, much of what they will do won’t redound to the government’s image because they will spread negative messages to harm the government’s interests.

What sort of politicking is this government doing? It seems political immaturity, over-blown self-confidence, and many other factors have combined to make it extremely difficult for the government to manage its communication tasks effectively.

How many times haven’t we complained about the shoddy manner in which Koku Anyidoho and the President’s entire Communication Directorate have been managing the communication aspects of governance? Yet, nothing has been done to either revamp that Directorate or to look for better quality material with the requisite acumen to do the tasks responsibly.

The government’s own Communication Team (headed by Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, Deputy Minister of Information) is nothing but a hollow pipe that channels out nothing but puerile and irritating rejoinders to viewpoints raised by the opposition. Everything they do is reactive. Even when they attempt to be proactive, they mess up, contradicting each other and creating the horrible impression that the government isn’t up-and-doing.

No wonder, the going still remains tough for the government. It can’t manage its public relations affairs well enough to either neutralize its opponent’s negative propaganda or to churn out credible messages to appease an otherwise agitated citizenry.

From the Ministry of Information down to all other analogous bodies tasked with propagating information about governance, nothing fruitful has emerged.

This ill-considered decision to boycott the Multi-Media News Group’s auspices is the worst move to have been made, and it will cost the government dearly. I agree with the NPP’s General Secretary on this score. A government that knows the value of information dissemination will not take offence at such petty occurrences but see it as a human failure to be turned round to advantage.

Whoever made that decision is not only short-sighted but is also unfit to be in government. And both the government and its party are all set to lose this media war. The nagging issue for the government to ponder is why it hasn’t been able to connect properly with these Ghanaian media houses and the journalists that it never ceases accusing of being bed-fellows of the NPP. There must definitely be something basically wrong; and this needless head-butting with the Multi-Media News Group says it all.

• E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

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• Get a copy of my novel, The Last Laugh (PublishAmerica.com, April 2009)

• Coming out soon: The Story of the Elephant, a novel

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.