Dr. Nyaho Nyaho-Tamakloe The recent decision by the Director-General of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), William Ampem-Darko, to abort a live broadcast of the institution's acclaimed GTV Breakfast Show represents a sorry state of affairs and leaves reasonable people with only one view: Ampem-Darko does not understand what is required of GBC in a democratic dispensation, and must resign from his position, or in the alternative, the GBC Board and the National Media Commission (NMC) must take the appropriate action to deal with him.
In a subsequent interview, Mr Ampem-Darko indignantly admitted that he had indeed ordered the abortion of the program on the grounds that the broadcast featured a politically imbalanced panel. This is horrifying! The Director-General of GBC takes it upon himself to make editorial decisions, thus rendering as nonsense the media and editorial freedoms guaranteed the producers of the Breakfast Show and other media
professionals under the constitution.
Although Ampem-Darko was nominated for his position by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government under former President John Agyekum Kufuor, his actions appear more consistent with the worldview of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) which is currently in power (as well as its predecessor AFRC/PNDC regimes). Of course, although Ampem-Darko is an NPP nominee, that does not mean that he
should serve as an NPP spokesperson or render GBC as such.
No, far from that! However, it is not improper to expect that Ampem-Darko would project leadership that supports freedom of expression and media, values that characterised the NPP's platform. Indeed, the record is clear that while the NPP strongly supports freedom of expression and the rule of law, the same cannot be said of the NDC.
In fact under the previous NDC government, the same Breakfast Show became the target of state action when Felix Odartey-Wellington, a panellist, was arrested by the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) for criticising the President. That incident epitomised other forms of harassment and constraints on freedom of expression in Ghana in the AFRC/PNDC/NDC era.
If Mr. Ampem-Darko is not aware of this, then he lacks the relevant and adequate knowledge of media and politics in Ghana that would qualify him to hold his current position.
Ampem-Darko should therefore have understood his nomination within the context of the NPP's platform on freedom of expression and the media. He should have realised that he owes his position to those who mortgaged their lives and freedom in the interest of freedom of expression. And that realisation should render incongruous the GBC Director-General's recent decision to abort the Breakfast Show.
While the Director-General of GBC, thankfully, is appointed by the NMC and thus is somewhat insulated from government control, Ampem-Darko must realise that to the extent that he chooses to serve under a government with dubious freedom of expression credentials, it is incumbent on him to maintain a high level of integrity.
If, on the other hand, he finds the pressure to conform to a more draconian political culture too hard to bear (as appears to be the case), it is for him to resign his position. GBC is funded by the good people of Ghana, and must serve as a key element in sustaining a truly democratic Ghanaian public sphere, a public sphere that will in turn support a vibrant Ghanaian participatory democracy. We are also reminded of an observation by CDD-Ghana in 2004 as follows: “The fear of embarrassing government underscores the persistence of self-censorship and reluctance of the state media, to act as watchdogs over government, even in Ghana's constitutional democracy.”
Ampem-Darko's recent actions make demonstrably clear that he is unable to lead the GBC as required by Ghana's democracy.
Under the circumstances, it is somewhat perverted that the Director-General will seek to hide behind the self-same democratic principles and institutions he has betrayed.
Perhaps it is the case that Ampem-Darko is hoping to hold onto his job by currying favour with the NDC. If that is the case, then he is most ill-advised. As many before him have found out to their chagrin and dismay, the NDC will merely use and discard him. After being associated with the NPP for so long, he cannot develop such a rapport with the NDC that would make the current government identify with him.
To put it bluntly, Ampem-Darko is nothing but fair game for the NDC and it will prey on him accordingly. To borrow from the hackneyed adage: “no matter how admirably and gracefully the chicken dances, the hawk will not be impressed,” and will swoop in for the customary kill.
Ampem-Darko must do the right thing and resign. In the alternative, the GBC Board and NMC must critically assess the implications of his censoring actions, and take the appropriate measures to ensure that editorial freedom exists at GBC.
By Dr Nyaho Nyaho-Tamakloe