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Govt Appreciates Media Contribution — Prez Mahama   
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Let me extend warm greetings to the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) on the occasion of the 19th GJA Awards and also convey my appreciation for making me the Special Guest of Honour at another impressive award ceremony.

This is, indeed, an interesting festival of ideas with our Special Guest Speaker, His Majesty Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, who has always stood for peace and development.

We welcome the delegation from Nigeria to Ghana.

Your Excellencies, in 1992, our beloved country embarked on a journey of multiparty democracy under a constitution that recognised the role of the media as the fourth estate of the realm. The media have played a critical role in the last two decades of our democracy and under difficult challenges have championed issues of national importance that have kept us on our toes.

You have done your best to bring us the stories. You have given people a voice to speak and an opportunity not only to see the challenges but also to witness the many initiatives and accomplishments of government. You have held us continually accountable. Your bravery and enthusiasm needs commendation. So, on this auspicious occasion defined by tradition and laced with splendour, I salute you for ensuring that divergent voices and views are heard and included in our development agenda.

Your theme for this awards and celebrations Event: “Using Development Journalism to Discern and Defend the National Interests,” and I must say you could not have chosen a better theme than this. It is, indeed, a strong indication of your commitment to play your role in advancing the aspirations of our people. We have a common interest to defend the public interest and it is for this reason that government welcomes a partnership that galvanises energies and efforts towards the nation’s development.

At your best, you bring out the best in us. We appreciate the good job you do in demanding probity, accountability and transparency. This is a heritage that will continue to make Ghana great and strong.

Government is making remarkable progress in promoting development and also empowering our countrymen and women. We are putting in place appropriate measures to transform the structure of the Ghanaian economy.

In the past week, government took a major step to revive the Komenda Sugar Factory and sugar cultivation in an area that was neglected and abandoned. It is amazing to witness the people’s appreciation for the renewal of fortunes for the once famous industrial estate of the Central Region.

This is being undertaken in the face of development constraints imposed by many factors, including hostile external economic conditions. As a social democratic government, the pursuit of people-centric development process will remain the centre point of a decentralised governance system.

In the last year, government has undertaken substantial infrastructure development in all sectors of the economy. In the area of health infrastructure for instance, the Police Hospital, the 500-bed Kumasi Military Hospital and the Ridge Hospital among others are being pursued. Last week, cabinet approved a facility that enabled us to construct 15 Polyclinics in underserved areas in the Central and Greater Accra regions. This will afford our grandparents, fathers, mothers and siblings opportunity to quality healthcare in those communities. The local pharmaceutical industry is being boosted, while Tele-medicine is being introduced to hospitals in remote areas such as Zebilla in the Upper East Region.

As you are aware, the agricultural sector has regained the top spot as the major contributor to GDP. The local rice industry has seen a big boost. Over $750 million has been pumped into the water sector. The energy sector continues to engage our attention. The massive investment in gas infrastructure will soon reveal itself in the coming months.

In the area of telecommunications and Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Ghana has surpassed all the international development targets. We have an enviable bandwidth capacity of 12.3 Terabits and broadband network that is reaching all districts. Recent development in the Business Processing Outsourcing sector will in the next few months create close to 10,000 direct and indirect jobs for the youth when the $8.8M BPO centre is completed.

Mr Chairman, His Majesty Asantehene Osei Tutu II, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I believe in the principles behind the philosophy of development journalism, that of placing development at the centre of media coverage. I urge you to be glued to this noble principle.

Development journalism, as has been emphasised by the GJA, requires that no matter the field of endeavour or area of specialisation, journalists should place emphasis on the implications of any programme, activity or action on development so that apart from descriptive narrations, journalists will feel much more obliged to investigate, monitor and carry out the necessary follow-ups, in order to exact better transparency and accountability from government and those in charge.

This, no doubt, requires some hard work on the part of the media in terms of research, investigations, constant monitoring of activities, policy choices, projects and programmes. It also requires regular follow-ups that ensure that the media’s audience is updated on information and education on a specific issue.

This will eventually help our people to make informed choices, as well as discern and defend what the majority believes is right and in the public interest.

Distinguished ladiesand gentlemen, it has become more pressing in the face of social media for mainstream media to adopt the development journalism approach. Social media is a good thing but the opportunity it offers us for quick social interaction and dialogue is sometimes misused by people either deliberately or inadvertently.

There have been cases of people engaged in citizen journalism putting out total falsehood on the Internet. Recently, there were people who put out stories on Ghana on the Internet concerning the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) without cross-checking their facts. Such scaremongering is capable of causing unnecessary fear and panic among our population and even the international community. Journalists working in the conventional media who also are social media participants have a responsibility to get their professionalism to come to bear. This, I believe, will help reform people practising toxic journalism on social media. Remember Ghana is the only home we have. Let me commend you for your support in the fight against the EVD and Cholera. We shall continue to count on you.

Government will be with you every step of the way.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I wish to assure you that government remains ever committed to the free flow of credible information, to help the people to make informed choices.

After 22 years of the Fourth Republic, the media no longer has any legitimate excuse to be victims of mediocrity or have any justification to make infractions a regular feature of our practice of democracy. We need to place decorum and circumspection at the heart of our practice.

Tonight, another person will be decorated as Journalist of the Year. I congratulate all award winners for distinguishing themselves and hope that their efforts will inspire other colleagues to greater heights.

Remember the famous Indian saying that: where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in character. When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home there is an order in the nation and when there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.

God bless our homeland Ghana.

God bless us all.
Source: Peacefmonline.com

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