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19.11.2009 General News

Chronicle tops private media...

By Mashudu Ankiilu Kunateh - Ghanaian Chronicle
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A study conducted by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC), between February and September 2009, among seven private-owned newspapers in Ghana, has ranked The Chronicle as the top private media organisation in corruption reporting, with 100 stories.

While the Daily Guide, New Crusading Guide, Enquirer and Business and Financial Times recorded stories below 100. The Daily Graphic and the Ghanaian Times, both state-owned newspapers, recorded 125 and 120 stories respectively.

On the electronic media, the radio stations chosen for the study were those that were prominent and available on the internet. These are the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) Radio, Joy FM and Peace FM.

In all, a total of 607 stories were surveyed. This represents an average of almost 76 corruption-related stories per month, and 17 stories per week, whilst the key variables coded for the study were such words as transparency, accountability, corruption, bribe/bribery, nepotism, probe/probity, influence peddling and whistleblower.

Presenting the GACC Monitoring Media Reportage on Corruption at a workshop in Accra, yesterday, the Director of the School of Communications Studies, Dr. Audrey Gadzekpo, who undertook the research, indicated that the study was aimed at determining the performance of the Ghanaian media in covering issues of transparency, accountability and corruption.

Specifically, the GACC was interested in monitoring selected state and private-owned newspapers and FM radio stations for a number of reasons; including to assess and review the role of the media in the fight against corruption, create a database of media reportage on corruption and anti corruption crusade and to use it as a basis for better engagement with and training for the media.

On the methodology, a triangulated study comprising a quantitative content analysis and a qualitative contextual analysis of corruption related stories in the selected media over the eight months period.

The content analysis of the survey was aimed at determining the quantum of coverage, types of stories, placement of stories and sources of information on the subject across board and each of the individual medium.

In terms of overall quality of stories, the study showed that the level of competence in terms of coverage was generally low. The small number of investigative reports indicated journalists were not proactive in their approach to covering issues of corruption and were susceptible to manipulation by political and other interests.

However, some stories showed the promise that journalists were capable of doing the job, the communications expert assured.

Dr. Gadzekpo observed that during the period, most of the stories were straight news reports from workshops, speech events and pronouncements from prominent individuals rather than investigative pieces initiated by reporters.

Also, “there were few follow-up stories, the excerptions being running stories on committee sittings, or a few prominent scandals such as the Mabey and Johnson scandal, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the activities of the [email protected] Secretariat and allegations of corruption against former Minister - Muntaka Mubarak”, she added.

According to her, public officials and politicians dominated as sources of stories but many of the stories were one-source stories, and lacked any investigative depth or analysis.

The veteran Journalist indicated that the dominant corruption-related themes most covered by the media during the monitoring period could be grouped into categories as allegations of corruption against politicians, corruption in the judiciary and law enforcement bodies such as the police, and corruption-related scandals.

The study revealed that GACC members received at best, modest coverage and limited exposure in the media as source and subjects of corruption-related information. The survey stressed that the first and most obvious was that there was willingness on the part of the Ghanaian media-both private and state-owned to address issues of corruption, transparency and accountability in public life.

But their capacity to do so remains at a rudimentary level of awareness creation and sloganeering, mainly because stories lack depth, analysis and independent investigation.

Dr. Gadzekpo recommended that to promote openness in society and expose corruption, it was vital for journalists, editors and media owners to resist pressures to report only what was beneficial to political and private interests, stressing that “They must maintain editorial independence and assert their right to take editorial decisions according to conscience and codes of conduct and avoid selectivity in exposing corruption in public life”.

She appealed to government to expedite action on the freedom to information bill to enable the media to further hold the public officials accountable.

Touching on capacity building for journalists, Dr. Gadzekpo noted that training must develop journalists' capacity to follow-up stories and teach them how to do a better job of monitoring especially promises of politicians and public officials. Journalist must build a stronger source base that can help them broaden their knowledge and perspective on issues and that can help them do a more credible job at reporting on corruption.

A Diplomat and a veteran Journalist, Ambassador Kabral Blay Amihere, who chaired the function appealed to journalist in the country to aim at being an award winning journalists and also carve a good image for themselves.

The Executive Secretary of the GACC, Mrs. Florence Dennis underscored that journalists could play a central role in promoting democracy and compelling better transparency and accountability in public life.

She was quick to add that “Now more than at any time in history, the media in Ghana is better positioned to act as a true pillar of integrity through reporting on corrupt behaviours by public officials, putting corruption on the public agenda, and covering corruption from diverse and wide-ranging perspectives”.

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