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20.01.2006 Feature Article

Mojo Odyssey: The Nature Of Media Barons In Ghana Politics

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POLITICIAN CRY NOT, BUT BLAME THYSELF

The main function of the media is to report the news and the news in Ghana is generally about government activity and ideology. The Media mirrors this activity! and ideology. Quite apart from the Ministry of Information and Ghana News Agency, a powerful Private Media, Audio and Print, are the sources of news reportage.

A panel of linguists from the American Dialect Society selected "TRUTHINESS" as the word of the year for 2005. They defined "TRUTHINESS" as the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts. Is the Ghanaian Media full of TRUTHINESS in their reportage on Ghana's political scenery?

Those, who over the centuries have fought for Democracy, know that Freedom of the Press should concern all members of the Public. The historian Alexis de Tocqueville noted: "The power of the periodical press is second only to that of the people." It should not just be a concern of the media and other assorted intellectuals, for the Press to be free and object! ive, but also a serious matter of interest to all. The media is not just a source of information. It also defines a Nation. It makes us who we are.

Ghanaians should therefore be aware of the connections between the media, and how the government and other elites view them as the source of governmental power. And on the part of the government, it is important to note that in a democracy, nothing is ever permanent. And those who ARE NOT currently IN POWER WILL NOT BE FOREVER WITHOUT IT. And hence, because all actions have consequences, government's control of the media will not always be the case. These, as palatable or unpalatable as the case maybe are the stark realities faced by politicians in power and in opposition respectively.

NDC, then in government, originating from the Revolutionary PNDC, began life on a frosty relationship with some journalists opposed to their views. Today, NDC is trying to tone down and bridge the gap that ensued. Journalists opposed to NDC arguably went beyond acceptable limits, hitting on leading figures of the NDC and publishing rumours, innuendoes and figments of their imagination about them, rather than hard cold facts. The top legal brain in NDC hierarchy then, perhaps influenced by arrogance of power, mischief, or simply 'doing what was thought to be the desire of NDC bosses', signed off for the application of the now repealed infamous 1960 Criminal Libel Laws and prosecution thereunder of journalists who were swiftly incarcerated for telling plain lies about a leading NDC figure. These erring Journalists became martyrs rather than common criminals they were meant to be. The NDC learnt a valuable lesson by the unfriendliness of other Media Barons who adopted negative attitude towards them.

In an authoritarian regime, one would not care 'a farthing' about repercussions of dealing rather harshly or loosely with errant Journalists. In a Democratic Dispensation, it is a whole new ball game which does not give room for 'marked public figures' to make flippant or loose-lipped remarks about 'identification haircuts' or 'praying for the souls of devious women'. Media Barons in search of the slightest slip by people they have sworn 'to deal with', take such jocular remarks as gifts from the gods and proceed to twist the meanings and context and paint those public figures pitch black to the eternal happiness and everlasting joy of their political patrons and people who 'hate' those 'marked public figures'.

NPP, now in government, originating from UP tradition of Action Troopers, has surprisingly not learnt from the NDC's debacle. Prior to the 2000 elections, NPP had never been in government, had no record in governance and so its Media Barons could flog NDC with errors of their time with 'pious religious intensity'. Media Barons friendly to NPP today appear compromised; so for now they wink at NPP's nation-wrecking acts. Journalists opposed to NPP have copiously documented diabolical acts of NPP which now constitute “NPP's Record”. For this, they have earned the anger and enmity of NPP and its Media Barons. However, they are not subjected to prosecution under a Criminal Libel Law, which NPP repealed to placate the Media and further coral them to their side. The precedence NPP has craftily set is to subject Media Barons to Selective Justice of the NPP packed Court System. CEO of Masai Limited, known to associate with NDC won a Libel action against an NPP supported Newspaper, but the paper received a slap on the wrist with a measly 50 million Cedi! award. The brother of NPP Leader on the other hand won a Libel case against an NDC supported Newspaper and the NPP Courts descended harshly on the Newspaper and its Editor with 1.5 Billion Cedis Libel Award that has culminated in the order to Auction off Private Property of the Editor of that Newspaper.

Thus, while the NDC used Criminal Proceedings to exact retribution, the NPP is using Civil Proceedings to exact the same kind of retribution. Aren't Ghanaian politicians funny? Be that as it may, it is never the position of this writer to suggest journalists ought not to face punishment for their mischief. It is the contention however, that since Ghana's Democracy is young and as a matter of priority, intensive Libel and Slander Education need to be a part of Sentencing on Conviction and also be the focus of Institutions such as School of Journalism, NCCE and Ministry of Information. In fact all Journalists new and old, Senior and Junior need such mandatory training.

Right now, NPP and its Journalist henchmen are burning up the truth with a well-seasoned marinade of lies and half-lies. NPP Media TRUTHINESS is exemplified by the disgraceful attempts to turn NPP MP Eric Amoateng, an alleged Drug Dealer, into a “Solomon”, in appellation of him as synonymous with wisdom! To them, no matter the World Disgrace and Global Opprobrium that Dishonourable Amoateng has caused all Ghanaians everywhere with his Drug Charges, Ghanaians should still call him HONOURABLE MP and for Taxpayers to still pay his salary, car allowance, rent allowance, house cleaner's allowance and other myriad allowances an MP is entitled to, perhaps including an ESB (e! nd of service benefits)! Has he not been absent from Parliament for more than 15 days? Since his arrest and incarceration in New York, the people of Nkoranza have had no spokesman in Parliament. If he was facing the law in Ghana and on bail, he would have been able to attend his parliamentary duties like MP Dan Abodakpi. Whilst cooling his heels in his Brooklyn, New York Cell, NPP Media Barons feed the nation with inconsistent stories about Amoateng!

From the very beginning of the NPP Administration, truth has become a casualty of governance. In the most basic sense, the NPP government does not trust the Ghanaian people to come to the right decisions. And as a result, lies have become the staple, and democracy is ! being degraded. For instance, if NPP had been honest about lackadaisical attitude towards corruption, perhaps the Ghanaian public would not have supported them and therefore the people had to be misled. The irony is that it is this deceit of the public that have led in part to NPP's loss of support with the public. Does NPP love power so much as to despise the masses not caring 'a farthing' about Deceit, Corruption, Nepotism, or Hooliganism? In a Democratic Dispensation there is a price to pay when the very masses who voted a party into office blatantly commit these political crimes. As the historian Alexis de Tocqueville noted, "Those that despise people will never get the best out of others and themselves".

Ghana needs an objective and vibrant media to guard against the lapses of the government.! But as it stands, much of the media has been co-opted by the government to serve as unofficial means of attack against its opposition. This practice is detrimental to Ghana's future because we cannot allow government officials to insert non-truth into media, and these officials cannot be allowed to damage democracy in the name of extending democracy, whether it be through bankrupting newspapers known to be against government through frivolous lawsuits, or intimidating them by using Ghana's security agencies against them.

In a democracy, freedom of the press means little if the media has allowed itself to be co-opted by the government. Intimidation is not the only means by which the government can control the media. Just because reporters, journalists, editors and other members of the press are not being ! thrown into jail or killed does not mean that they are any less free. In fact, that age old sweetener – money – can make many reporters forget their fealty to the truth, and fall in line with their political patrons. And in some other cases, if journalists refuse to follow or tow the government line, they can be denied access to officials and records, an act that can severely hamper their ability to do their job. In spite of this, brave journalists walk the walk and take 'their One-Shot' for posterity!

NDC is receiving the brunt of unrelenting barrage of Media TRUTHINESS. One might mumble that NDC deserves such treatment in terms of the argument of this piece. Yet, it is Ghana's Democracy that suffers in a curious way. The Media Barons accuse NDC's Founder of antidemocratic tendencies without provable fac! ts. They magnify internal dissention and portray an image of the NDC that is totally wide of the mark. The Media magnify sparks as conflagration. The genesis of the feud between Rawlings and Obed is known only to the two of them. A lot has been said about this, but a lot more would be said till their Biographies are published, perhaps after they have both left for the world beyond. Are they not the only people who have the capability to prove their truths?

Regardless of the angst of Anti-Rawlings folks and their total dislike of any attempt by this writer and others to look at facts about Rawlings, let's proceed to look at the reaction of Rawlings to decisions by NDC Congress which is the highest decision making body of NDC as a first step in determining whether or not he has received a bum rap from Media Barons in their charge that he is undemocratic and is destabilizing the NDC:

THE FOUNDER AND LEADER DE-COUPLING MATTER

When NDC lost the 2000 election, one issue that dominated the restructuring process was the need to de-couple the twin titles of Leader and Founder which reposed in JJ Rawlings, as NDC Flag Bearer and Founder. When his term ended in 2000, how could he keep the title of Flag Bearer, when he was statutorily barred from leading the NDC for the next election? So the Re-structuring Committee came up with a recommendation for Rawlings to lose the Leader's Title. It is well-known that Rawlings was unhappy about this. The matter was determined by NDC Congress at the La Trade Fair in 2001. Congress voted against Rawlings push to be both Leader and Founder. Rawlings accepted the decision of Congress and never resigned from the NDC or accused others of intimidation.

CHAIRMAN VERSUS CO-CHAIRMAN TUSSLE

When NDC was in power, it had two men, Alhaji Issifu Ali and Mr. A.A. Munufie as Co-Chairs of the party. Rawlings wanted NDC to continue with the Co-Chairmanship headship of NDC as opposed to Single Chairmanship Position that was proposed by Obed's Re-Structuring Committee. At that particular time in the history of NDC, the grapevine had it that Rawlings' and Obed's feud had just ignited. Rawlings was thought to have believed that Obed was trying to disgrace him and so dug in to oppose the recommendation. The matter was referred to NDC Congress at the La Trade Fair 2001. Congress decided against Rawlings and adopted Obed's recommendation of Single Chairmanship. Again Rawlings lost out but he did not resign from the NDC. When NDC Congress went with the Single Chairman mandate and it went on to elect Dr Obed Asamoah as the Sole Chairman, Rawlings simply abided by the decisi! on of Congress.

FLAG BEARER CONTEST AT CAFETERIA LEGON 2002

For 2004 Election, NDC Founder Rawlings supported Prof Mills and NDC then Chairman Dr Obed Asamoah supported Dr Kwesi Botchwey. Ultimately, when it was his time to vote, Rawlings declined that opportunity, raising clasped hands and acknowledging the delegates instead. Is it not one of the tenets of democracy for every person to be allowed freedom of choice? Why should everyone have the freedom to determine who they prefer in particular positions; yet these same people want to take that inherent right away from Rawlings? Should he, as a human being first and foremost before any title of Founder, not have the right to prefer a particular person for a particular post? The Founder's position is not the same as that of a Chief or even a president.

Did Rawlings not face a bum rap, at least in these cases?

Perhaps the greatest tragedy to befall NDC is the wrong picture painted by Media Barons of wanton beatings of supporters of one of the candidates and harassment of that Candidate himself before he entered the Election Hall at the 2002 NDC Flag Bearer Contest! From the side of the hall closest to the podium was a specially erected barricade and entrance, properly manned by security for entry of Executives, VIP's and Contestants. Delegates had another entrance that became crowded with everyone trying to enter at the same time. It was the delegates' entrance that Dr Kwesi Botchwey used to gain access through the tumult into the Hall, perhaps to underscore a point that he was with the ordinary people. Or, perhaps Dr Kwesi Botchwey was not informed about the special entrance he was to use. Nevertheless, the Candidates wer! e allowed to address Congress and the Electoral Commission supervised the elections.

NDC UNDER DR. K.

On Jan 12, 2006, Dr K, newly elected NDC Chairman said: “The fact is that in every mass organization there will always be strife and struggle. But with a strong will we can overcome. The new executives of the NDC believe in bringing together not only our supporters but all Ghanaians. The NPP needs a divided NDC to survive and does everything to keep us divided as a people.

But in spite of all the machinations to divide our front our commitment to truth and noble principles will ensure that we pr! evail. We promise to build a new NDC that will be the envy of all other political parties, a united, stable NDC focused on attaining political power for the accelerated development of the country.”

The NPP cannot divide the ranks of the NDC without NDC's permission. GRASSROOT supporters, usually women, converge by the gates inside the compound of NDC Kokomlemle Headquarters or Kuku Hill Campaign Center to vent out their spleen against some injustice or against one another. Meanwhile Captain Effah Darte! y, NPP Minister, has set up business right across the single lane street separating his business from the gate of the Kuku Hill Center. Which electronic information gathering gadgets has the ex-soldier not installed in his place of business?

Can NDC Officials discourage loud discussions in their yards and perhaps encourage the use of meeting rooms, not only for only executive meetings? Perhaps impose sanctions on people who disturb in the yards?

NDC has another Congress approaching this year, 2006, the Election of Flag Bearer. With all the lessons learnt from the mischaracterization of NDC as sanctioning harassment and intimidation, Dr K's new executive must educate delegates ahead of the event of their responsibilities in maintaining decorum as they have been doing. They must plan well in advance to ensure a Congress that no one would have reservations about in terms of harassment and intimidation.

Mojo Odyssey on the prowl for NDC 2006 Flag Bearer Contest. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Ebby Koney
Ebby Koney, © 2006

The author has 22 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: EbbyKoney

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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