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14.12.2007 General News

Journalists react to Ethics Committee's concerns about "soli"


Some Journalists on Thursday reacted to concerns by the Ethics and Disciplinary Council of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) about the issue of some journalists receiving gifts from their hosts after assignments.

The Gift, normally referred to as "soli", normally comes in the form of cash and given to reporters who are assigned to cover events.

Ms Abigail Addoquaye, Foreign News Editor of the Ghana News Agency, said she did not see anything wrong with journalists accepting monies when they go out for assignments.

She explained that if event organizers were willing to give out money, why should the journalists refuse it.

"I am against reporters fighting for "soli" but giving out money to journalists is just to say thank you," she said, adding that, if on the other hand journalists were abusing it, then something must be done about it.

Mr Divine Koblah, an Editor at the Agency, questioned why hosts of programmes could stop giving journalists “soli". For him, “it is a gift, it is not meant to influence the journalist on how to write their stories, it is only an appreciation".

He said the Ghana Journalists Association did not have the right to stop event organizers from giving out money to reporters.

Mr Lawrence Quartey, a Chief Reporter, expressed his concern about the way "soli" was given and how some journalists "shamefully and disgracefully" ask for it.

"The Journalism profession is a noble one and it can only be protected by the professionals," he said, and urged media practitioners to uphold a great sense of integrity and self discipline and always ensure that their attitude commanded respect.

Mr Christopher Arko, a Reporter with GNA, said the giving of "soli" should not be stopped, but said journalists should not demand for it from event organizers.

Mr Sam Nat Kevor, a journalist with the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, suggested that the GJA should have a Collective Bargaining Agreement that negotiates salaries for journalists.

He said journalists were not paid well and this sometimes frustrates them to demand money for transport.

He urged event organizers to monitor the newspapers and radio stations to know whether assignments covered by journalists are used.

"With that they would gradually know who is doing the right thing and who is there for the sake of soli".

Rev. Emmanuel Aubin, a Senior Editor with the GNA, on the other hand said it should be stopped because organizers try to buy the conscience of journalists when they give out "soli".

Mr Kwasi Kissi Yeboah, an Editor at the GNA said journalists should not demand for 'soli" though the provision of "soli" in itself is not bad.

Mr Alfred Huges, a Reporter with GBC Radio, expressed worry about the way journalists sometimes wait for hours after a programme just to take "soli", and that most genuine journalists do not wait for after assignments because their priority is the story and not the money.

He called on the GJA to examine facilities available to media houses especially transportation, and said journalists faced lots of frustrations when they have to move from one place to another to cover events.

Mr Huges said there should be a line of distinctions between soli and transportation, but sarcastically asked when did the GJA executives realize that soli was unethical. It has been there for a long time.

Mrs Lydia Kukua Asamoah, Senior Reporter at the GNA blamed event organisers for the indiscipline in the journalism profession and urged event organisers not to entertain people who had not been invited to their programmes.

"Media houses are not taking good care of their journalists, so Soli should be given in a decent way."

Ms Hannah Asomaning, a Reporter with the GNA, expressed concern about how some event organisers treat journalists knowing very well that they had budgeted for them.

"It is embarrassing to see some journalists hanging around after assignments for hours, only to be given GHC5.

A Reporter with the Daily Graphic remarked that if the GJA is saying that journalists should stop taking soli it should start from the top.

"Journalists should not take anything then, no hampers, nothing," he said and pointed out that it was unfair for the GJA to say journalists should not take soli because "if I work with any organization I can receive gifts for a good work done."

Ms Agnes Boye-Doe, a Chief Reporter noted that the giving and receiving of "soli' was not bad only it was embarrassing, how some Journalists rushed to programmes only to collect the "soli" without even bothering to write the stories.

She said if stopping the process was the only way to bring some sanity into the journalism profession then it should be stopped.

Mr Michael Agyemang, Public Relations Officer (PRO) at the Ghana Water Company Limited, said sometimes PROs were faced with the problem of giving journalists lunch after a long assignment, so giving them money as a substitute solves that problem.

He said that he did not see anything wrong with giving journalists money after inviting them for a long and tiring assignment.

Mr Agyemang however cautioned journalists not to use it as blackmail where they sometimes threatened not to use the story because a PRO was not able to provide the amount they expected.

Most PRO's, especially those from the Ministries, event organisers and Public Relations Consultancy firms in Accra contacted by the GNA declined to comment on the issue.

It would be recalled that the Chairman of the Ethics and Disciplinary Council of the GJA, Dr A. Bonnah Koomson, issues a statement expressing serious concerns about recent media reports and public discussions, which gave the impression that "giving money and/ or other forms of inducement to journalists is acceptable".

"For the avoidance of doubt, such practices are not only an embarrassment to the profession but also undermine the cardinal principle of merit in news gathering, news judgement and presentation, the statement said.
"It is the duty of every professional journalist to report events without the assistance of any incentive".

The Council stated in no uncertain terms that incentive or inducement of any kind, whether offered or demanded is contrary to Article 3 of the GJA Code of Ethics, which expressly states that 'journalists should not accept bribe or any form of inducement to influence the performance of their professional duties'.

The statement also cautioned the public against making overtures and offering such incentives under the guise of transportation, "Since the giver and the receiver are partners in crime".