Bizarre incidents have never been in short supply in Ghana, but what is currently unfolding within the media fraternity may be unrivalled for their absurdity.
A precious life was wasted in a clearly avoidable accident involving none other than journalists assigned to cover the presidency and some people have chosen to make light work of it.
For those who have forgotten, Samuel Nuamah of blessed memory was the breadwinner of his family Ė his mother confirmed this in a televised interview shortly after his demise, so caution needs to be applied in making pronouncements that border on the unfortunate incident.
Although not shocking to me, the unexpected spineless position taken by the President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Affail Monney, in adding his voice to the Chief of Staffís claim that there was no wrongdoing in the accident is what has ruffled feathers within the fraternity. ďThe Chief of Staff assured that it was purely an accident and the state of the vehicle could not be blamed neither the driverĒ, Affail Monney, the GJA President said on Joy Fm.
Before this, GTVís Napoleon Attokitoe Ė a victim of the ghastly highway slaughter Ė had in an interview on his sick bed said Ďthe driver lacked experienced and yet was speedingí. In a response to whether he was satisfied with the Chief of Staffís assertion which flew in the face of Napoleonís account, Monney said, ďI am inclined to believe that he [Chief of Staff] was candid with what he saidĒ.
He justified his position with a claim by Presidential Staffer, Wisdom Awuku, which contradicted Napoleonís account. Monney quoted Awuku as saying Napoleon was sleeping when the accident occurred so he could not have monitored or observed happened. I have personally confirmed that Awuku was not on the bus which was involved in the accident. Joy fm also confirmed this in their news. How can the word of an absentee take precedence over that of a victim-cum-eye-witness? Has news gathering taken on new frontiers, such that the word of absentees are taken above those of victims and eye witnesses in such events? Was Monney petrified into this bizarre reasoning because the presidency is involved?
Affail Monney works with Ghana Broadcasting Corporation where Napoleon is a Presidential Correspondent, and putting the Chief of Staffís word over his reporterís raises interesting questions. Napoleon has reported from the Presidency for some years and I am yet to hear of an instance where his report has been contradicted for factual inaccuracies.
He is human, I am not oblivious of that fact. Will Monney believe any report Napoleon presents when he resumes work? I believe somebody has a reckoning with his conscience
Has Napoleon suddenly become a credibility suspect just because he is now the newsmaker? How long has Monney doubted Napoleonís integrity without making it public? T. V . Africaís news editor, A. C. Ohene, couldnít have put it more bluntly in shooting down the shocking pronouncement by the GJA president; ďWhatever Mr Debrah (the chief of staff) has told Affail Monney which he prefers to believe as gospel as opposed to what his reporters have told him must be very interesting. He has no justification in believing the chief of staff. I am hugely surprised and he should better tell us why he believes a politician as opposed to his colleagues who have given him enough briefingĒ. If I were in Napoleonís shoes, that vote of no confidence from my boss would have been my resignation letter because there is no way you can be assured of your own safety at the work place if your own boss places strangersí words above yours, especially when you have not really demonstrated dishonesty in the line of business.
As to why Monney chose to take the word of a politician over that of his own reporter, only the heavens can tell.
Politicians in this country donít tell the truth and this appears to be a DNA issue. They are always guided by political interests and expected benefits rather than what will inure to the citizensí benefit in whatever they do. So when a journalist who has worked with you for years without any question about his integrity suddenly has to be sacrificed on the altar of another self-seeking politicianís claims, then we are all headed for no manís land. Affail Monney must step down as GJA President because his utterance has left him with no moral right to lead the inky fraternity.
The chronicle also reported that the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), after examining the tyres of the vehicle that was carrying the press corps members, declared that it was not roadworthy. But do we really need yet another report to know the car was in bad condition? The picture of the vehicle we saw after the accident showed a tired automobile which does not deserve to convey the press corps of any company, not to talk of the presidency of all places.
To journalism in Ghana, this is an all-too-familiar terrain. The profession has become the only one which flouts the biblical edict of Ďlove your neighbour as yourselfí.
Journalists in Ghana are unrelenting advocates of everything that makes conditions better for other professionals but themselves. They are kept waiting for public officials at events for hours and there will never be any incidence of an en mass boycott, so a lot of public officials treat us with all the contempt they can muster. I am not sure I will live to witness the first nationwide media blackout on some personalities who treat journalists with disdain. Medics recently went on a nation-wide strike and it worked.
Until we purge ourselves of our excess baggage and demand the respect due us from public officials who should know better, the media will continue to be a chaotic terrain with hungry scavengers which politicians, business owners, sports persons, celebrities and their ilk will continue to vilify, denigrate and malign with devilish intensity and satanic ardour.
I have worked for 10 years reporting for some international publications Ė like New African and African Business Magazines Ė but I have not been a fan of the boring daily news conferences and assignments, although I have selectively attended a good number of them to which I have been invited. There have been a number of times when I have had to walk out of such events after waiting for almost an hour for politicians who were billed to address the media. But with a media largely fragmented by parochial interests, it will only be a dream to see them walk out en mass in such circumstances. I once told a colleague to join me on my way out of one such events and he remarked; ďdonít you know somebody may collect our soli? And havenít you seen the item 13 being arranged on the tables outside?Ē. I walked out without a word. I called him later in the evening and I was shocked to hear that the event took off two hours after I left but he stayed through.
Journalists in Ghana are quick to expose and report all manner of human rights abuses or anything that comes close to it when itís about others but they stomach abuse, disdain, vilification and all manner of ill-treatment meted out to them without letting out a cough. There is no unity in the profession because some are influenced more by expected benefits than by professional good in their dealings. That is why a fellow journalist can impress on another to kill a story at the behest of a ďmoney bagĒ public figure. Is the media still the conscience of society? We keep conferring status on the wrong persons and look the other way while some people act with impunity.
What exactly does the GJA represent? Is it a pressure group? Professional association? Or merely a union? If itís a pressure group, what exactly has it done to ensure that the working conditions of media practitioners are improved? If itís a professional association, where are there no licensing regimes in place so that no joe average can walk in and batter its sinking image with impunity? If itís a union, what interest does it serve? that of members, or some other people that we donít know of? Is Affail Monney convinced that members of the Presidential Press corps are well treated?
There have been countless occasions when journalists have been brutally assaulted in the line of duty and the GJA has not satisfactorily followed any of them to its logical conclusion.
The routine has always been a statement condemning the act, followed by interviews calling for investigations and then the case goes into blessed memory till another person is beaten to jolt the association back to reality. To me, the GJA is only buoyant when awards nights are here. And even some of those ceremonies have ended with accusations trailing the association for handing some nominees a raw deal. It brandishes a constitution and code of conduct without telling members what they stand to benefit from joining.
A former member of the presidential press corps, Kwame Acheampong, in a recent article titled; ďWhy I left the Presidency with gleeĒ, had this to say in his piece; ďLet me first state categorically that disdain for the press corps is systemic at the presidency. It didnít start with this administration. They are the least regarded and often treated like unavoidable Ďanchor babiesí, like the Americans will say. Even the least-educated cleaner at the presidency feels more important than the journalists.
They consciously make you feel like you are less human. There were countless instances where I saw some of my colleagues, who are married and have kids, curse themselves for being posted to the Flagstaff House; not many will have the confidence to openly speak about it thoughĒ. Napoleon also chose to be bold to talk about it and his boss left him in the cold when it mattered most.
ďMy senior colleague Rafiq Salam, in his recent piece, makes reference to the difficulties the press corps goes through during trips outside Accra. Rafiq, I can too well identify with those frustrations. I remember so well how I had to fight for a sleeping floor at Nkwanta in the Volta region during the 2012 electioneering. My colleagues and I had to beg to be allowed to sleep on the floor in an uncompleted premises of a school.
And when day breaks, the media is ordered into the convoy like some stubborn school kids who must be controlled. Even more nauseating is the fact that every Tom, Dick and Harry in the security detail feels powerful over the media. But I donít blame them; they seem to have been psyched up to think that the media is a parasite leeching off their masterĒ, Acheampong added.
To some public officials, especially politicians, journalists are school drop-outs, idle minds, and frustrated people whose job descriptions they dictate, while feeding them off the crumbs on their table.
I have witnessed this demonstrated a number of times and shamefully, some of us have emboldened them in their downright contempt for the only profession that gets a special mention whenever democracy is the topic Ė the fourth estate Ė by pandering to their whims. While some of us have been permanently bought by public officials, sports personalities and celebrities, others are like prostitutes, willing and ready to dance to wherever the carrot is being dangled.
Sports journalism even presents some shameful realities. I spent about two years in my early days in the profession as a sports journalist and I discovered that even some sports reporters can help aggrieved football stakeholders to identify media persons behind some reports they find distasteful so they can attack them. This all goes for a pittance which in the end, only adds to destroying the already badly-bruised reputation of the inky fraternity.
Journalism in Ghana appears to be the only profession with many practitioners who pretend to care for themselves but it still remains an each-one-for-himself terrain. Some have survived by selling their conscience, while others have remained in oblivion despite rendering peerless service to the nation. The GJA has always pretended to be championing the interests of Journalists and interestingly, we journalists have also pretended to have an association which means well and has our welfare at heart. I have never been a member of the GJA and nothing about it has wet my appetite to reconsider my position.
Source: Stephen Gyasi Jnr.
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