The President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr Ransford Tetteh, has advised journalists in the country to refine the language of politicians who mount the political platform and make utterances that have the potential to plunge the country into chaos.
Addressing journalists at the GJA Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Accra on Friday, Mr Tetteh said, "When people mount the political platform, they say anything and we need to refine their language and set the agenda on issues such as energy; education and health".
He said journalists, as gatekeepers, needed to religiously guard the electoral process to ensure that no individual hijacked it, since such a situation could affect the peace the country has enjoyed over the years.
While admitting that journalists had committed some professional and ethical breaches in the past, he expressed confidence that they would rise to the occasion when the need arose, as they had done in previous elections.
"The media have made strides and today everybody refers to them as the bastion of democracy in the country. I appreciate and understand that there have been exceSses, but we have made progress. Today, we have a free media to hold the government accountable for its actions," he said.
The GJA President appealed to political parties to provide the necessary information to contribute to the necessary dissemination of information. He challenged them to tell the electorate what they intended to do about the Freedom of Information Bill.
He said the association was committed to starting the next stage of the Ghana International Press Centre project but stated that a challenge that must first be addressed was how to raise funds for it, noting that the present monthly dues of GH¢2 paid by each member of the association was woefully inadequate.
The General Secretary of the GJA, Mr Bright Blewu, said workshops, seminars, lectures and media dialogues formed the backbone of the association's educational programmes in 2007.
"Notable among these in the year under review were a series of media dialogues organised in connection with the Business Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund Project," he said.
He said in 2007, the number of members in good standing was 650 but it has presently increased to 701, explaining that the national executive, in fulfilment of its promise to raise the quality of the GJA ID card and weed out impostors from the profession, issued new ID cards to members.
On the GJA's monthly membership dues, Mr Blewu. said, "There have been calls by members that the amount be raised but the national executive has not yet made such a proposal because it has not found it easy collecting the current amount."
According to him, the new GJA Constitution made provision for corporate membership and said it was the view of the national executive that such membership could be an effective tool for strengthening friendship and solidarity among media organisations.
"The arrangement, the executive also believes, will provide a bridge between the association and the management of media organisations," he added.
Mr Blewu said in recognition of 2008 as an election year, the association had planned programmes aimed at reminding journalists of their crucial role in holding transparent, free and fair elections in December.
"We intend to strengthen our collaboration with the Electoral Commission in making the Ghana International Press Centre a media resource centre and results relay centre," he stated.
The General Secretary stated that the GJA had re-organised its Ethics and Disciplinary Committee and had established a Professional Development Committee to liaise with media training institutions and employers in the development of training programmes for members.
A member of the Coalition on the Freedom of Information Bill, Nana Oye Lithur, said the passage of the bill was very important, as it would enable the public and media to access information from both public and private offices.
She said the present draft bill was inadequate, as there were a lot of exemptions and also the bill did not fulfill the requirement of maximum disclosure, as was the case in other international bills.
Awards were presented to organisations and individuals who excelled and supported the GJA in diverse ways. Some of the award winners were Africa Online, the Western Regional Branch of the GJA and Mr Godwin Avenorgbor, a former employee of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation.