I must sound like a broken record on this subject. But we must keep talking, educating and debating until we get rid of the few reckless guys giving the media profession bad press.
We must not rest until we secure better protection of free speech and media freedoms because there is no democracy without the twin freedoms.
This week I was in court for a journalist. On Monday, I must be in court for four journalists. I defend and fight for journalism and media freedoms.
There is such great joy and pride working for journalists and media entities that uphold the highest professional and ethical standards.
Practicing independent, fearless, credible and critical journalism actually requires the discipline of keeping to the rules of the game.
We like to cite foreign journalists and media when talking about standards. But some of the very best are right here in Ghana.
The Fourth Estate of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) does investigative and research journalism painstakingly gathering the hard facts including RTI requests, verifying and thoroughly analyzing information before publishing them. That, in fact, is the fundamental business of journalism – gathering and publishing verified facts.
Yes, the media will make mistakes. It is only human and professional and honourable to admit when you get it wrong and make amends.
They get sued, we go begging for forgiveness for journalists and sometimes even that may come with a cost. Some demand hefty or modest amounts as compensation or punishment for the reputational damage.
In fact, one reckless act by one journalist has collapsed an entire media organization and put the owners into debt and poverty. This also means other people have been denied their job and daily bread.
Like any other profession, you will encounter people without principles in the media. Some are hired partisans; some engage in pure criminal blackmail and extortion, and some are simply ignorant and arrogant, strong when they are wrong.
The MFWA’s media monitoring report for June 2020 – May 2021 showed pro-NDC Power FM and pro-NPP Oman FM compete in dominating ten Akan-broadcast stations found to have no respect at all for regulatory and ethical standards.
The two stations completely dominated in violations of the ethical principles of decency, accuracy, prejudice, bias, balance, impartiality and public sensibilities in the content of their broadcast. In the frequency of violations, the two recorded 714 and 644 breaches respectively while the closest to them, Accra FM and Hot FM recorded 105 and 93 violations respectively.
Nonetheless, the consensus among media watchers is that the Akufo Addo Government has a terrible free press record starting with the decision to shut down radio stations opposed to it.
Don’t tell me Radio Gold and Radio XYZ suffered for not keeping up with regulatory and authorization renewal payments.
The Government acting through the regulator would not have resorted to shutdowns for stations sympathetic to it, and it didn’t.
In those situations, the law is not only enforced by shutdowns and that’s why other equally guilty stations were not dealt with in the same fashion.
National Security operatives have arrested and abused journalists including Emmanuel Ajarfor Abugri and Caleb Kudah. Investigations into the murder of Anas Aremeyaw’s partner Ahmed Suale have been slow to dying, but the President and his appointees have uttered a word of condemnation after the NPP MP publicly disclosed his identity desiring his attack.
The apparent and near-default resort to sections 207 and 208 of the Criminal Offences Act by the State, instead of allowing recourse to the civil tort of defamation by affected individuals, may smack of a veiled revival of criminal libel, which Parliament repealed in July 2001 under Nana Akufo Addo as Attorney-General.
But why cry oppression of free speech and free press if all you specialise in in the name of journalism is the publication of false news, outright lies, barefaced spirited insults or scurrilous abuse of political opponents, judges and almost everybody you disagree with?
We will fight trumped-up criminal charges against critical journalists. But what have arrests over suspected private criminal acts of a journalist got to do with attack on media freedoms?
It is not journalism to hand the microphone to someone who blames her depravities on relapses as though she is the only sufferer of the condition, and as if there was ever a 24/7 all-year-round relapse state for bipolar sufferers.
I should not be vouching for those she has over the years accused of private affairs, but if you hand her the mic to destroy reputations and marriages without first verifying her allegations, you are rather undermining free press by neglecting to uphold the very basic standards and ethics of journalism.
In front of her accusers and their lawyers and before a team of police investigators on Monday, she admitted Kojo Yankson never told her Sammy Awuku intended to unleash assailants to kill her.
She confirmed Kojo advised her against her defamatory conduct to avoid social media attacks by supporters of the politician who discouraged social media attacks against her.
It was shocking to learn at this meeting that there was no recollection of Kojo speaking with her since interviewing her many years ago, and even more shocking that the last time Sammy spoke with her was sometime in 2017.
How do you host her to give false reports of this meeting without confirming with the police or any of the parties? What sort of journalism is this?
You are a media owner or manager, when was the last time you organized some training for your staff, especially those who did not attend journalism school?
You are a journalist who thrives on politicians hailing you even on issues you admit privately that you got completely wrong, what kind of a journalist are you?
But whatever offensive conduct put up by a journalist, it is unconstitutional and criminal to assault them. Dear IGP, your men assaulted a Connect FM journalist Eric Nana Gyetuah.
His ‘crime’ is that he refused to delete pictures he took of suspects in the company of some five officers at a popular eatery in the Western Region.
Yes, it is wrong to take and publish pictures of criminal suspects because the Constitution commands in article 19 that they are innocent until proven guilty by a court.
Sir, while you institute disciplinary action against them, put them before a court as swiftly as you do for others.
A show host has just been convicted and sentenced to 14 days in prison and a statement by managers of the station is rather intended to embolden him to continue to peddle such outright falsehood and abuse judges without basis?
This presenter and his managers spurned MFWA’s red alert and advice on the back of a monitoring report that captured him violate regulatory and ethical rules with impunity.
He elected rather to abuse the MFWA when they presented a copy of the report to him and offered guidance for improvement.
Dear media manager, when was the last time you organized some training for your staff, especially those who have not been to journalism school?
We can do better! That’s My Take.