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07.10.2005 Feature Article

Letter From The President: Spies and journalists

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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, what is this I hear about journalists turning into spies? I have been closely following the debates on this matter and I am baffled by the sheer arrogance of the journalists who have turned themselves into secret agents – using James Bond methods to eavesdrop on other people's conversations.

I nearly puked when I heard what the deputy editor of the Vanguard newspaper had to say in defense of his forays into the world of secret agents. Remember it was the Vanguard newspaper which came out to clearly state that it had the capacity to bug (or tap) people's phones and that they had used this method to uncover a plot by Jerry Boom to assassinate one of our former Attorney Generals, who happens to be the current chairman of the NDC.

Phone bugging should be the work of a privileged few who have been trained to keep the information they gather secret whiles acting on them. I don't think that journalists exactly fit this profile. Journalists are gossips. They can't keep their mouths shut and they rush to publish every information they get. Most journalists in this country cannot even afford quality mobile phones. A lot of them have not even mastered the usage of basic computer programmes. So how did they lay their hands on the phone-bugging equipment? I think that some idiots in the intelligence agencies might have either supplied them with the equipment and/or the techniques for bugging phone lines or the journalists were just allowed by the intelligence agents to listen-in whiles they were bugging phones. It was all done to spite Jerry Boom and further embarrass him. I know. But I had no hand in it and I condemn it.

I have no problems with the intelligence people bugging Jerry Boom's phone lines. It is their job. Jerry Boom is a dangerous coup maker and I would be a fool to tell the intelligence agents to stop bugging his phone and closely monitoring his movements. What I detest is the fact that other people – journalists especially – are being allowed to also listen in to his conversations. I detest it because I fear that a very dangerous precedent is being set in this country. Today, it is Jerry Boom's conversations, which are being 'broadcast' to a select group of privileged journalists – who claim to be working in the public interest. Tomorrow, when I am retired – an old man who enjoys the company of young beautiful women – journalists like J. Bruce will be listening to my conversations and publishing every detail in their newspapers. Today it is journalists who are being allowed to listen-in. Tomorrow, who will be allowed to listen to my conversation. The concubines of the secret agents, I suppose.

My point is therefore a very simple one. Secret agents should do their work in secret without allowing journalists to 'participate'. Journalists should also do their job as they should – reporting intelligently, explaining issues in an unbiased manner to our largely benighted populace and exposing wrongdoing without fear or favour. Since I don't know much about the secret world of spies, I will like to dwell a little bit on journalists here.

Instead of straying to perform duties they've not been trained or oriented to perform, I will suggest to the journalists in Sikaman to rather concentrate on improving the quality of their work. Journalists in Sikaman are such an unprofessional lot. I read the newspapers and all I see is garbage. I listen to the radio stations and I hear nothing but crap. I watch TV in Sikaman and all I get is a heavy dose of crass stupidity, unimaginative thinking and unrestrained bootlicking. It's as if an army of idiots has been unleashed to miseducate, misinform and mislead us all. To cover up their failures, they are now straying into unfamiliar territories to do things they know nothing about just so that they can be able to mask their incompetence with 'scoops'. When I sit down to read newspapers from Kenya, South Africa or Nigeria I feel my time is being well spent. The feeling is not the same when I read the newspapers in Sikaman. In fact, I've stopped reading them. I only read the Sikaman newspapers when they say something about me and I need to read things for myself. When I can help it, I just skim the pages, reading the headlines just to give me a fair idea of what's going on in our country. I'd rather spend my time cleaning the public toilet in my village than reading the newspapers in Sikaman. Instead of pretending to be working as spies to cover up their incompetent output, I think the editors who have been eavesdropping on people's conversations, purportedly in the public interest, should concentrate on publishing well-researched, well-thought out and insightful stories about the many social problems that afflict our people and affect the quality of life in our country. They will be better serving the public interest doing this than eavesdropping on the likes of Jerry Boom. They should leave me to worry about Jerry Boom.

Journalists should also concentrate on improving the layout of their publications to make them appealing. They should also strive to improve on their print quality. The newspapers in Sikaman are so poorly designed and crudely printed that even market women do not like using them as wrappers for their smoked fish.

Journalists should realize that their follies – such as their latest misadventure into the world of espionage – do not bode well for the growth of the profession in Sikaman. You see, when journalists 'spy' on opposition figures they only reinforce the perception that they are “in bed” with my government. This perception should be dispelled – not reinforced – if journalists want to be seen as credible, dependable and unbiased. When journalists lose their credibility, no one takes them serious. They can rant and rave all year round about corruption, bad governance and wayward government officials but no one would believe them. Ultimately, democracy suffers and our country loses. Will this be in the public interest?

Excellently yours,

J. A. Fukuor Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

J. A. Fukuor
J. A. Fukuor, © 2005

The author has 204 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JAFukuor

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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