"The Statesman" Under Attack
The Statesman - a local newspaper - has come under severe criticism for a story it published on the frontpage of its Tuesday, December 3, 2002 issue. The story titled “Why Mills Is A Poodle” made very derogatory remarks about the former vice President, Professor John Evans Atta Mills. The paper also published an accompanying picture of a poodle with Prof Mills' head.
It described Prof Mills “as the most loyal poodle in Ghana's political community”. The paper's attack on Professor Mills' personality followed his call on the Finance Minister, Governor of the Bank of Ghana and Senior Minister, J. H. Mensah to resign over the abortive IFC loan.
It goes on to describe a poodle as “a 15-inch dog, which would obediently do his master's bidding without any yap or help.”
The Ethics Committee of the Ghana Journalists Association and the Atta Mills campaign team have called on the Statesman to retract the story and offer an unqualified apology to the former Vice President.
A statement from the Mills campaign team said the article had the prospects of causing immense global harm to the hard earned reputation of Prof Mills now standing for election as the National Democratic Congress presidential candidate for the 2004 elections.
It asked the newspaper to commit itself to the avoidance of any future recurrence of such unprofessional misconduct against Prof. Mills and his political campaign. "It has been the oft-expressed hope of Prof. Mills that political campaign in Ghana can be waged with decency and civility."
The statement called on the Media Commission to instill "this sense of professionalism amongst journalists.... and to enforce civility amongst the few journalists who seem unable or unwilling to maintain high journalistic standards."
It also urged the Ghana Journalists Association and all groups concerned about good governance to condemn "this unwarranted attack on the person and personality of the former Vice President.”
The Ethics Committee of the GJA also noted “with disgust the description of the former Vice President Professor John Evans Atta Mills as a poodle … and condemns the use of such unacceptable language”.
A statement signed by Frances Ademola, Chairman of the committee described the story as “unethical, insulting and therefore in very bad taste. It violates Article 5 of the GJA Code of Ethics, which requires among other things that journalists should have respect for human dignity and should guard against violating the sensibilities of other people. This is also unacceptable in our culture”, the statement added.
The committee further described the statesman's reportage as a misuse of press freedom and cautioned journalists particularly editors to be mindful of their language