Journalists in Ghana were on Monday urged to be more investigative in the practice of their profession to ensure that they brought issues beyond speeches and press releases to the reading public.
Mr Chris Hodges, Public Affairs Director at the US Embassy in Accra, said often when journalists came for functions at the US Embassy for instance, they printed nothing more than the text of the speeches and press releases given to them at the function in their newspapers the following morning.
He was speaking at the opening of a four-day workshop on investigative journalism jointly organized by the Ghana Media Advocacy Programme (GMAP) and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) to build the capacity of journalists to be able to identify and help fight cyber crime.
Mr Hodges said it was worrying that after journalists had asked so many questions at functions, "we expect them to print the answers they get, which are usually contained in the speeches and press releases, but we read nothing more than the content of our speeches and press releases in the various newspapers the following morning," he said.
Mr Hodges asked, "what value do journalists bring to the issues raised in those speeches and press releases by printing them back?"
He said the role of journalists as educators demanded that they went beyond the prepared speeches to investigate issues into more details and focus their stories on the details behind the speeches.
"We do have a few very good investigative journalists in this country but we need more than just a few to ensure accountability, good governance and participatory democracy at all levels," he said.
With regards to the role of journalists in combating cyber crime, Mr Hodges said journalists were crucial security partners and that the journalists should have an investigative attitude towards their work if they were going to be worthy partners.
Ms Emily Bowers, Lead Resource Person for the workshop, said responses journalists usually got in the form of reader comments on the Internet and through radio and TV phone-ins were indicative of what the readers expected from journalists.
She said reader comments should serve as a motivation for journalists to look beyond prepared speeches and press releases and be more investigative to bring the to the reading public the more intriguing issues.
Mr Ransford Tetteh, President of the GJA, said even though journalists were not police officers, as watchdogs of society, journalists had a responsibility to educate the public on how to avoid cyber criminals.
He called for a close collaboration between the media and the security services within the West African sub-region to stem the tide of the attack by organized and cyber criminals.
Mr Abdul Malik Jaleel, Executive Director of GMAP, expressed the hope that the workshop would provide journalists with the tools to educate the public on how to identify and avoid cyber criminals and also to file news reports on cyber crime more accurately and consistently.
About 20 participants drawn from Ghana and from the West African sub-region are attending the workshop. They are being trained in practical online journalism, Web Blog usage (blogging) and cyber crime.