There was a period in our history when journalists were treated with contempt at press conferences, necessitating the intervention of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA).
In those days, organisers of press conferences sometimes never allowed any questions after they had presented their statements. There were journalists who were subjected to assault or humiliation for asking “wrong, embarrassing or unintelligent” questions.
The GJA intervened and emphasised that press conferences were meant for journalists, not the general public, and that organisers were enjoined to answer any “stupid” questions from journalists.
Those who felt they were under no obligation to entertain questions from journalists were advised to issue press statements, instead of calling press conferences.
Thankfully, in recent times there have been decency and comportment on the part of those who organise press conferences. Such organisers equally oblige to answer questions, even if issues are not dealt with comprehensively.
But that also imposes on journalists the necessity to ask objective, relevant and insightful questions which will serve the cause of the public.
Question time at press conferences is not the time for journalists to state their frustrations with the system or pour out their emotions.
Unfortunately, some of the journalists who have had the opportunity to ask questions at such events, especially the Meet-the-Press series organised for government ministries, departments and agencies, under the Ministry of Information and National Orientation, have not helped the cause of the public.
There are times when the ignorance, biases, prejudices and emotions of journalists so cloud their questions that the public feels justifiably disappointed.
The fact that one is promotive or supportive of an issue or event, or one is totally antagonistic to the cause, must not be the tone of the question, since not all the members of the public would share similar sentiments, although the questions are asked on their behalf.
Accordingly, we would want to appeal to the GJA to embark upon educational campaigns to inform journalists on how to make the public benefit more meaningfully from press conferences, instead of allowing journalists, for whatever reason, to act in a populist manner.
We need to take pre-emptive steps to ensure that press conferences play meaningful roles in the provision of first-hand information for our people, rather than become farcical events because journalists who get the opportunity to ask questions cloud the process with their own biases and prejudices, at the peril of the public good.