By Rose Awudi
According to article (10) of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Code of Ethics, a journalist “does not accept a bribe or any form of inducement to influence the performance of his or her professional duties”.
However, that is not the case on the field. Some journalists, especially, the junior journalists demand payment in the course of their duties. These payments are popularly known as “soli”.
Being the fourth estate of the realm, journalism balances the other three arms of government; the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary by playing the “watch dog” role on behalf of the people they serve.
Their main role is to be the ears and the eyes of the populace. A democracy with a weak press is not a democracy at all. Who is going to hold the people we instill power in, accountable in our country?
The unprofessional practice where journalists are given monies called “Soli” (short for solidarity) or T&T (time and transport) after covering an event, has become too common among most media houses and journalists in Ghana. This practice isgraduallybeing rooted in Ghanaianjournalism and is virtually becoming an accepted practice.
In a story from Graphic Online on the World Press Freedom Day, a former lecturer of the School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, Dr. Koomson, said the tendency of reporters to accept gifts and favours, commonly termed as “soli” has undermined the integrity of theprofession over the years.
“If we rely on soli to do our own work, those who are unable to pay soli will not be heard and yet they may have good stories to tell” hesaid.
Accepting ‘soli’ is one of the biggest acts of unprofessionalism because it cut down thecredibilityofthejournalist, the respect the profession and affect the way they write. They fill the pages of their papers with sensational headlines, misrepresentation of facts and deliberate political bias stories. Recently, a friend of minetoldme about how a journalist was irritated at the fact that the money she got after covering an event was too small.This goes to question our sense of objectivity and independence as media persons if ouraimistodemandfor “soli”.
The media alone cannot be blamed for engaging in this rude, unprofessional practice. What could trigger this? Public Relation persons and event organizers should also be blamed for offering the journalists the “soli”.
Media organizations should also be held responsible for refusing to give these journalists transport fares to cover a story.
Talking to ghanaweb.com, ace journalist Manasseh Azure disclosed that most journalists rely on “soli” because they are not well paid , neither do they cover for their transportation needs when they go to cover a story.
“There are some media houses that do not fund their reporters…when they send them to go for stories, they don’t even fund the transportation. So the temptation is so high. So that is the part that I said some people are compelled by circumstances to take that soli and live on it,” he elaborated.
The media is the fourth estate and needs to be paid well. They serve the entire nation, hencetheydeservebetter. The leadership of GJA would do the profession and humanity, as a whole, some good when they begin to take critical measures against “soli” by ensuring that Ghanaian journalists are well-paid with better conditions of service.
It is incumbent on the National Media Commission and the Ghana Journalists Association to find ways to drive out not only the corrupt journalists but the circumstances that breed these practices in the media. Now theprofessionisgraduallylosingitsrespectandcredibilityandit must be gained again. It will be a mistake for theseauthorities to look on helplessly while this filth in journalism is going on.
It is very sad how the power of the voice and the pen of the Journalist have been under estimated by those who buy them with just” something small for the boys” and the journalist themselves, have no idea the power he or she holds.
Journalists in Ghana must be treated like cashiers of any organisation. They must be treated with respect, and they should be well paid because they hold the country in their reportage. With their words, they can make and unmake the society. And they must be absolutely free from the people they cover so as to regain the respect for the profession.