“The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything. Except what is worth knowing. Journalists, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supply their demands.” -Oscar Wilde.
A close look at the standard of journalism in Ghana lives much to be desired. It is disheartening, observing how low the standard of journalism has sunk. This is due largely to the fact that journalists in this country have aligned themselves to political parties.
Mention the name of any journalist, and someone will tell you where he belongs. The person goes on air and the moment a topic is introduced and he is called upon to speak on it, you can pre-empt what he/she is going to say.
Pick a newspaper on our stands and you could just by glancing at the headline, you know the orientation of the paper.
Perhaps it is a reflection of the society, where everything is viewed with political lenses. Issues that need to be discussed dispassionately are approached from a political standpoint. A member of a political party misconducts himself while in office and instead of allowing the law to take its course to determine whether the person is guilty or not, we rally behind parties to stampede the process.
MP’s who are elected to parliament to go and represent the interest of their Constituents rather, there go there and put the interest of their political parties before that of the people who voted them to go to parliament.
Journalists are supposed to amplify the voice of the voiceless and keep the executive in check by bringing to fore the ills in the society, but if they are now in bed with the powers that be, then the society is doomed as you can be sure that the ills of the society cannot be tackled head on.
We are mortgaging our future and the future of the next generation for our selfish gains. Senior journalists in Ghana are the worst offenders; they are actually politicians parading as journalists, it is instructive to note that, the new crop of journalists working under so called managing editors are also copying this attitude. Who doesn’t want to be rich? It is an open secret that journalism doesn’t pay and so if their bosses, having aligned with one political party or another, are living opulent lifestyles, they will also sell their conscience to better their lives.
Media houses are no exception, as people tune in to a radio station based on what he/she wants to hear. If you want to hear the praises of the government you know where to lock your dial. If it is the bashing of the government, you equally know where to leave your dial.
Take a typical day and a typical topic, a Minister of State representing this country signs a contract that will not inure to the benefit of the populace but because he has a ten percent kickback. After leaving office, when he is called upon to come and answer questions regarding the deal, you will find journalists who love individuals more than the nation singing the tunes of witch hunting.
Don’t you think whoever signed the contract for the construction of the Tetteh Quarshie roundabout should be called to answer questions?
A minister of state travels outside to represent the country in an HIV/AIDS conference and ends up impregnating a lady. He is hauled before The Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and you have journalists defending him.
Another is also going on official duty and he also decides to take his girlfriend along at the expense of the tax payer. Questions are asked and surprising enough, you get journalists defending such an act.
Examples abound in this our fourth republican dispensation. The media have been touted as the fourth estate of the realm and are expected to serve as the guard dogs of our democracy. If they allow themselves to be manipulated by the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, who have already disappointed the populace, then there is a serious problem on our hands.
If we conduct an opinion poll to find out who the citizenry trust between the politician and a journalist, it is going to be next to impossible; the appropriate question to ask is ‘who is the lesser evil?’
What is journalism? Journalism is a discipline of collecting, verifying, reporting and analyzing information gathered regarding current events, including trends, issues and people. Is the Ghanaian journalist living up to this standard?
Many are those who sacrificed their lives, time, energies, and resources for the liberalization of the media landscape and those who are supposed to hold the torch are letting their forebears down. Not too long ago this was a noble profession which mirrored the problems of society and exposed corrupt officials. Our fathers who fought for our independence used the media. Dr Kwame Nkrumah our founder and Dr J.B Danquah, the doyen of Ghanaian politics, were all writers. They used the media to sell their ideas and the liberation struggle. It is not for any reason that it is often said that the pen is mightier than the sword.
Growing up, the media I knew, which served as the mouth piece of the government, are the Daily Graphic, The Ghanaian Times, and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). The private media have since taken over the work of the government sponsored media houses, doing government public relations. They have thus become the mouth piece of the government.
During the reign of His Excellency former president Rawlings, the media spoke with one mouth, probably because of the criminal libel law. But things took a different twist when president Kufuor succeeded him, and with the return of NDC 2, things have gone from bad to worse. Journalists who were once friends have become foes simply because of their stomachs.
Are we practicing black polythene journalism, or stomach journalism? Opinions, they say, are like noses and everybody has one. Journalists certainly have opinions but for their integrity and that of the profession, they are supposed to keep it to themselves and report the truth, given both sides equal opportunities to defend themselves. Unfortunately the journalists we have now have become lawyers, judges, football coaches and parliamentarians. To put it simply, they have become masters of every topic, pronouncing people quilty before they go through due process of law.
The importance of journalism cannot be overemphasized, as it gives direction to the thoughts of people as well as to voice their opinion. So it is important that journalists remain honest and maintain their integrity.
The media landscape is appalling and the earlier something is done to reclaim the glory journalists used to have in this country, the better for the profession and for our fledgling democracy.