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23.06.2020 Feature Article

Ghanaian Journalists Have Been Doing Advertorial Reporting Since Independence

Ghanaian Journalists Have Been Doing Advertorial Reporting Since Independence
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In the Mass Communications Era of the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s and well into the 1970s and the 1980s, it was called “Development Journalism.” Media establishments, primarily owned by the State or Government in the so-called Third World Countries, were routinely expected to unreservedly and/or unquestioningly collaborate with the government of the day, be it a democratically elected political party or a military junta, to purportedly serve the interests of the citizenry. This was fundamentally and essentially the kind of media culture that any Ghanaian citizen, 40 years old, or thereabouts, grew up knowing. Under the tenure of the Kwame Nkrumah-led Convention People’s Party (CPP), 1951 to 1966, privately owned newspapers that were deemed not to be serving the interests of the government in power but, instead, the alternative viewpoint of the political opposition, were promptly shut down and declared to be Enemies of the State. We saw this psychologically stultifying media culture rule the entire Jerry John Rawlings-led “revolutionary period” in Ghana throughout the 1980s and the early 1990s.

In the worst-case scenarios, the publishers of these privately owned newspapers were imprisoned for years. Throughout much of the Rawlings-Tsikata-led junta of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), which is throughout the 1980s and the early 1990s, and the faux democratically elected Rawlings-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) that replaced the PNDC in the 1990s global political paradigmatic shift that witnessed the effective collapse of cutthroat Socialism and Communism, “His Master’s Voice,” which meant passively singing or echoing the single-minded tunes of the government of the day, was the mainstream norm or standard practice. So, it is not clear to me what Ghanaian academics and intellectuals like Prof. Audrey Gadzekpo, the Tsikata relative, who owe a considerable modicum of their high status in Ghana’s tertiary academy to their consanguineal affinity to the Rawlings-Tsikata Diarchy, mean when they talk of something called “Advertorial Journalism” (See “It Is Unethical to Engage in Advertorial Reporting – Prof. Gadzekpo” Ghana News Agency (GNA) / 6/20/20).

Absolutely no time during the last two decades of the Twentieth Century were any Ghanaian journalists or reporters in the country taught non-collaborative “Independent,” “Watchdog” or “Objective” reportage at either the Rawlings-Tsikata- or PNDC-controlled School of Mass Communication at the University of Ghana or the Kwame Nkrumah-founded Media Sewage Sludge that hitherto was the Ghana Institute of Journalism, may be peripherally in theory but not practice. Those independent-minded trainees and/or practitioners who did not conform to “Command Standards” were branded “Enemies of the People” or “Enemies of the Revolution” and promptly put away or take care of, which meant that they were either fired from their state-owned jobs or both fired and put behind bars. In Ghana, even when a semblance of media freedom was granted by the Rawlings-Tsikata Diarchy in the early 1990s and throughout much of the same decade, the arrest and detention of journalists who doggedly pursued what the University of Ghana’s Prof. Gadzekpo is now pontifically preaching was pretty much the norm.

Even revolutionary lapdogs like Kojo Yankah and left-leaning political chameleons like Kwesi Pratt have had their own run-ins with the Rawlings-Tsikata Trokosi Nationalist Diarchy. Under the Rawlings/Agyeman-Rawlings-chaperoned National Democratic Congress, Messrs. Pratt, Baako and several others served some time behind bars for daring to call the integrity of the extortionate and parasitic Rawlings Clan into question. It was only under the neoliberal tenure of the John Agyekum-Kufuor-led New Patriotic Party (NPP) that Ghanaian journalists and reporters began to experience any enviable level of freedom of expression, which means only just under the last two decades. Under the eight-year tenure of the Mills-Mahama-led regimes of the National Democratic Congress, in particular under the Stanislav Xoese Dogbe-chaperoned and Mahama-figureheaded National Democratic Congress, in the evergreen words of Mr. Alban SK Bagbin, Ghanaian journalists who were “advertorially” inclined risked losing their livelihood as well as being physically savaged or brutalized.

It has only been under the current tenure of the Akufo-Addo-led government of the New patriotic Party that media practitioners like Mr. Affail Monney, the President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), have been able to muster any respectable semblance of “courage,” when journalists have come under attack by some internal saboteurs of the Akufo-Addo government, such as occurred about a year ago, when somebody holed up inside the Ministry of National Security was widely alleged to have authorized the physical mistreatment of some two senior media operatives on staff at the Modern Ghana Media Portal. By and large, Ghanaians have never experienced a healthier media climate than presently.

*Visit my blog at: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD

English Department, SUNY-Nassau

Garden City, New York

June 19, 2020

E-mail: [email protected]

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2020

The author has 5300 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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