By Stephen Odoi-Larbi
Efforts to deepen Parliamentary democracy in the West Africa sub-region, on Saturday, received a big boost with the formation of the West African Parliamentary Press Corps, an initiative muted by the Parliamentary Press Corps of Ghana and Nigeria.
According to officials, the motive of the Association was to share ideas and experiences to see how best Parliamentary democracy in West Africa could be consolidated.
So far, Ghana and Nigeria are members of the ‘West African Parliamentary Press Corps,’ with other member countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region, expected to join soon.
The coming together of the Parliamentary Press Corps of Ghana and Nigeria, to form the ‘West Africa Parliamentary Press Corps,’ is significant and a positive step forward in the sharing of experiences and best international practices, noted the First Deputy Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, in his statement to welcome the historic decision.
Mr. Adjaho, however, urged the Press Corps members not to undermine national cohesion in the discharge of their duties, since “All things are lawful, but not all things are useful.”
“As a politician, at times, I get access to very sensitive documents, and I ask myself, if to use those documents to score a political point. But, again, I ask myself, if I score a political point, what will be the effect on national cohesion and the development of the country? These should be the guiding principles of the Press Corps.”
Mr. Adjaho, who is currently the acting Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, promised to give the newly-born association the needed support in order to function effectively, adding, “The day the Press Corps will collapse, Parliamentary democracy will collapse.”
Commenting on the initiative, the Majority Leader of Ghana’s Parliament, Cletus Avoka, urged the media to collaborate effectively with the government in its quest to deepen democracy.
“In its annual state of the Media report of West Africa for 2009, the Media Foundation for West Afri `ca states, and I quote that for a number of countries in West Africa, there was relatively peaceful relations between the media and government. Journalists in countries, including Togo and Mauritania, which were hitherto under severe surveillance, practised their profession in a much improved environment.
“This, and other refreshing reports, give us hope that effective collaboration between the arms of government on one hand, and the media on the other, will result in a more open and transparent government that inures to the benefits of the people,” argued Avoka.
He however, urged members of the association (West African Press Corps) to study each member country’s Constitution, Standing Orders, Parliamentary Practices and Procedures thoroughly, to ensure that their reportage is strictly within the confines of the law and parliamentary regulations.
He also tasked them to be more responsible, and not allow themselves to be used by any individual or group to pursue self-serving agenda.
“The Association must therefore, ensure that its members adhere to moral and ethical standards that the association will carve for itself in the performance of their duties,” he noted.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Nsuta-Kwamang Beposo, Kwame Osei-Prempeh, who represented the Minority Leader, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, commended the Parliamentary Press Corps of Ghana for the wonderful work in disseminating parliamentary proceedings in the public domain.
“You are the voice of Parliament. Of course, the Hansard records what we say, but less than one per cent of Ghanaians get access to the Hansard. So, for the public to hear what we do in Parliament, it is through how you see it, and how you report it. Therefore, Parliament cannot function without you,” he noted.
To him, the Parliamentary Press Corps had attained a certain status that no politician in Ghana could not fail to recognise, and also urged the media to strive to greater heights, irrespective of human errors.
The Dean of the Parliamentary Press Corps of Ghana, Andrew Edwin Arthur, believes that the formation of the Association would go a long way to deepen democracy and good governance in the sub-region.
He said the formation of the association would strengthen the position of member countries to hold their respective governments accountable for their actions.
He urged members of the Association to practice their profession with decorum, circumspection and strict professionalism, devoid of arrogance, in order to avoid the situation where their reportage could have the potential of throwing their respective countries into disrepute.
The leader of the seven-man Nigerian delegation, Cosmas Ekpunobi, expressed the hope that the Association would bring mutual benefits between member countries.