GHANAIAN MEDIA: HOW FAR?
By I. K. Gyasi
LAST WEEK was the observance of World Press Freedom Day across the world.
Three stories saddened me. The first was the reported death of Mr. Oscar Tsede, one-time Editor of the DAILY GRAPHIC. The second was the information that Ghana had slipped from the second position to the sixth position as a country where press freedom is respected in Africa. And the third was the news from the Committee for Protection of Journalist (CPJ) that as many as 28 journalists were incarcerated in Eritrea, with their fate not known.
I never met Mr. Oscar Tsede who, according to a “GRAPHIC” tribute, was the fourth Editor of that paper after Mr. Martin Therson-Cofie, Mr. Isaac Eshun, and Mr. I. K. Nkrumah. (See “GRAPHIC” Friday, may 4, 2012)
It was a veteran “GRAPHIC” reporter and Regional Manager who told me the story of what happened to Mr. Tsede. The military regime that succeeded the Nkrumah Government negotiated with a foreign firm known as Abott Laboratories to buy state asset, the Ghana Pharmaceutical Corporation.
Some Ghanaians were vehemently opposed to the sale. The “GRAPHIC” under the editorship of Mr. Tsede wrote an editorial opposing the sale and, thus, siding with the anti-sale people. Mr. Tsede was dismissed as the Editor. The good side to this sad story is that Mr. Tsede did not go away alone.
Mr. K.G. Osei-Bonsu, then Commissioner of Information, felt aggrieved that he was not officially informed about the dismissal of Mr. Tsede. He immediately resigned.
Mr. J.W.K. Dumoga, the late veteran journalist who was the Supervising Editor of the “GRAPHIC” at the time, also resigned. Not to be outdone, another late veteran Mr. Moses Danquah, who had moved from the “GRAPHIC” and was the Supervising Editor of the GHANAIAN TIMES, also resigned.
When will there be another time when Ghanaian journalists will show such professional solidarity in spite of partisan political affiliation?
Mr. Osei-Bonsu is still alive. Unfortunately, Mr. Dumoga and Mr. Danquah have passed on. And now Mr. Tsede, whose dismissal led to the resignation of Mr. Osei-Bonsu, is also gone.
By the time you read this article Mr. Tsede will have been laid to rest in his home town of Anfoega-Akukome. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
A spokesman of the Committee for the Protection of Journalist in prison said on the BBC that there were currently about 28 journalists in prison without any trial.
The spokesman even wondered whether all of them were alive or whether some had died. He went on to speak of the horrific repression of the press and the prosecution of journalists worldwide.
The statistics of journalists, who are killed, possibly murdered, do not make pleasant reading. Yet, year after year, the grim event of deliberate killing of journalist and their unjustifiable incarceration is repeated.
In rating African countries in the matter of press freedom, it does not make pleasant reading that Ghana has slipped from the second position to the sixth position.
If you asked me, I would say that since the adoption of the 1992 Constitution, Ghana has come a long way along the path of the practice of journalism.
To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing like pre-publication external censorship in which a Government official sits in the editorial office of a newspaper, radio and television stations to vet what is to be put out for public consumption.
We have come a long way from the time when local news available was what you got from GBC-2 (English language) or GBC1 (Ghanaian languages)
Today, there is such a proliferation of Frequency Modulation (FM) stations that there is unlimited choice in every region of the country. Languages which did not have a place on Radio Ghana, as GBC is also known, can be heard, depending upon which area the FM station might be operating in.
Television stations include the old GTV, Metro-TV, TV-3, TV-Africa, Crystal-TV, E-TV and NET-2 TV. Within the law, programme choice is the discretion of the owners or management.
As for newspapers, perhaps no one knows exactly how many of them exist today. At any news stand, one can count hundreds of them. Publishers have taken advantage of new technology.
Consequently, it is no longer the old black-and-white publication of old. As many news items as possible are crowded on the front page to catch the readers’ eyes.
Gone, indeed, are the days when people needed a licence to publish even politically-innocuous sports papers. Of course, the whole idea was to stop certain individuals from publishing a paper.
One of the crippling laws that worked against press freedom was the infamous Criminal Libel law. That law has been repealed, thus giving more freedom of the press and the individual who wants to express his views.
After 20 years of the 1992 Constitution, as far as the media is concerned, we will say with my friend Rev. J. Oppong-Agyare of the Presbyterian Church, “We have reason to crow.” Yes, our media has liberation, both at the State level, and the private level. But, unfortunately, it has not been all sunshine and sweetness and joy. There have been negatives too.
Our politicians are often accused of spewing forth insults. We tend to forget that the media, especially the newspapers, may even be guiltier of writing gratuitous insults against those who state their opinion, and even those who say nothing about a particular issue. The newspapers that support particular political party are the most guilty in this respect.
Deliberate falsehood, slanting, editorializing in news reporting, pornography and fabrication of stories shames our media. In newspapers, on radio, and in television, the news put out appears to be badly edited. Both the English language and the local language suffer wrong usage.
It is good that journalists are talking of unionisation. They have complained about poor conditions of service, especially peanut salaries, that is if you call what some of them receive as salaries.
The sad end of my own cousin, Abraham Kutin-Mensah, Mr. Moses Danquah, Mr. J.W.K Dumoga and Mr. Oscar Tsede, to mention but a few, illustrates how the old journalists gave their all and yet died poor. It is a story that must be told. In the meantime, I repeat Oscar Tsede, Rest in Peace.
PS: Chairman-General Kwami Sefa Kayi, please bring back the Fanti Quartet of Abdul Malik Kweku Baako, Kwamena Duncan, Allotey Jacobs and Sam P. Yalley to the Wednesday KOKROKOO programme. I like their ideas and especially the Fanti of Mr. Duncan and Mr. Yalley.
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