THE GHANA Journalists Association (GJA) at the weekend made history when it failed to declare a winner for the prestigious Journalist of the Year award. The GJA could not announce a winner because none of the entries met the requirements of the award.
While a lot of corporate bodies were ready to give out awards, journalists appeared not to be ready for them as their works were virtually pronounced substandard.
There were no entries at all in several categories while submitted works for other categories did not meet the set standards, thus making the momentous 13th GJA Awards Night at the Banquet Hall of the State House a cheerless one as hordes of journalists expressed misgivings about the awards.
Guests waited for the crowning of the Journalist of the Year with eagerness so the announcement by Affail Monney, Vice President of the GJA that there was no winner for that category left many visibly shocked, with some leaving the venue before the programme came to an end.
According to him, of the record 208 entries submitted for consideration in the various award categories, the GJA awards committee found none to be meritorious enough to take the prestigious award.
Themed 'Using the Media to Promote National Unity and Stability in an Election Year', the awards night saw several journalists as well as others who had contributed to the development of the Ghanaian media being honoured with various awards.
William Asiedu of the Daily Graphic picked two awards for his story on “Filth Engulfs Parliament”, a write-up that sent the Zoomlion Company scurrying with brooms and brushes to tidy up the august House.
Innocent Appiah of the Ghanaian Times and Samuel Dowuona of the Ghana News Agency, as well as Loretta Vanderpuije of GTV won awards in News Reporting, while John Vigah of Ghanaian Times took one for Sports Reporting.
Nii Laryea Korle of Graphic Showbiz won the Arts/Entertainment/Domestic Tourism award, with GTV's Edward Nyarko winning the Business/Finance/Economic Reporting.
Clare Banoeng Yakubu, also of the GTV, won the Health Reporting award.
Merari Alomele of The Spectator was adjudged the Best Features writer.
Honorary awards went to Lawyer Akoto Ampaw, as well as veteran journalists Gertrude Opare Addo, Christian Aggrey, Mike Atsutse, Razak El-Alawa and a posthumous one for the late Harry Mouzalas.
Mrs Oboshie Sai-Coffie and Dan Kwaku Botwe, both former Ministers of Information, and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation among others were honoured for various roles they played in strengthening the media.
Earlier, Vice President Mahama, in an address, expressed concern about the delicate balance between responsibility and recklessness, and noted that in a fledgling democracy such as Ghana's, it might be better to have a reckless media than a docile one, provided the excesses arise from natural exuberance rather than calculated malice.
He said: “Election years are especially fragile. What the media chooses to highlight and hammer is what influences the mood and determines the attitudes of the larger public. Depending on the tone and choice of delivery, insignificant localised political incidents may be blown up into nation-wrecking events”.
Describing the media as a mirror of the society, he said our deepest passions, desires, fears and hopes for the future are what a diligent media unearths and projects. “Hence a fearful mood will be projected as despondent despair for the future. Likewise, buoyant hope will be projected as confident expectation.”
The Vice President opined that though it was the duty of the media to promote national unity and stability, it behooves the people to play a role to help the media keep a balance.
Consequently, he called on all and sundry to support professionalism through training and to be proactive with reliable and constructive information rather than react to rumour and ideal mischief.
Mr Blay-Amihere, who chaired the ceremony, commended successive presidents and executive members of the GJA for keeping the momentum of the memorable awards celebration.
He challenged the press in Africa and for that matter Ghana not to serve as 'foot notes' to the ambition of politicians; rather, they should maintain fairness and objectivity.
“The press should remain independent,” he emphasised.
Mr Blay-Amihere wondered why some journalists seek to influence the outcome of election results to cause mayhem.
Paul Adu-Gyamfi of the National Media Commission accused the media of concentrating more on politics instead of developmental issues.
He made a passionate appeal to the media to allow the interest of the public to prevail and desist from inflaming passions in the forthcoming elections to ensure democratic success in Ghana.
By Sheilla Sackey