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19.12.2002 General News

Away with political biases - JAK to Media

By Daily Graphic
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The President, J.A. Kufuor, has urged staff working with state owned-media organisations not to allow their political biases to dominate their work in the discharge of their duties.

“As citizens they are of course entitled to their own political preferences, but it cannot be that the Constitution went to such lengths to prevent editorial control by the political party in government only to allow the domination of the personal political biases of those who work in the state-owned media houses”, he stated.

He said: “Obviously, if these personal biases should happen to coincide with those of the political party in power, there will be a cosy situation where without any covert government intervention, the media house will shut out opposition voices simply by exercising their so-called ‘editorial opinion.”

President Kufuor said this in a speech read on his behalf by Ms Elizabeth Ohene, Minister of State at the Presidency, at the inauguration of the new head office building for Graphic Communications Group Limited and state-of-the-art machines for the Graphic Packaging, a subsidiary of the group in Accra.

The building was constructed by Micheletti & Co. Limited, a local firm. According to the President, “the drafters of the Constitution went to great lengths to insulate the state media from governmental control of editorial content. This provision was made as a result of bitter experience, but it also means that those who work in these institutions also face a somewhat tricky situation”.

He acknowledged that journalists tend to believe that they are better guardians of the public interest than public officials or even elected government officials. “But I am persuaded that the only justification there can be for the state to own media houses is for them to provide the platform for exchange of ideas and to keep the people, that is, tax payers, the real owners of these establishments, informed about what the government they have elected is doing in their name”, he said.

President Kufuor said the government has a healthy respect for the power of the press and believes that a vigorous press is an important index of a working and thriving democracy, adding that the government has a healthy respect for the power of the press.

He said although doubts have been publicly expressed about the wisdom in the government removing the laws on criminal libel from the statute books, which goes to show that people are anxious about the way journalists have been exercising their freedom, “I still believe that speech should not be criminalised and I am proud that this government had the courage to remove criminal libel from the statute books”.

He said: “I have not been tempted to bring it back, not even on the mornings when I read in the newspapers and listen on the airwaves fictitious and malicious stories about me and my government.”

President Kufuor said the power of communication in modern day life is crucial and that his government would much rather work with the media for the good of the people than engage in any confrontation and dissipate energy, adding that “both the press and the government have a shared responsibility to nurture our democracy”.

He expressed his happiness with the giant step taken by the company in modernising its offices and expressed the hope that the newspapers the company produces will be true leaders not just in attracting advertising revenue but also in shaping public opinion.

“As the undoubted market leader, and as a state owned-newspaper, the Daily Graphic must accept a lot of responsibility for shaping public opinion”, he said.

He added that no part of the country must be made to feel too remote to deserve coverage and that the daily struggles and triumph of farmers and the constant battles of entrepreneurs must be given the needed coverage.

“They deserve to be reported not as stories that are done as part of a reluctant duty but as interesting stories that inform and entertain”, he said.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors, Alex Quarmyne, described the project as the largest and most ambitious infrastructural and capital development in the 52-year history of the company. He indicated that the company envisages operating in both print and electronic mediums, which will be a truly national media organisation providing access to readers and listeners in the remotest parts of the country.

“We aim at raising the standards of our newspapers to such high technical and editorial levels that they will compare favourably with similar newspapers anywhere in the world”, he said.

According to Quarmyne, “we aim at ensuring that within the shortest possible time all our newspapers will rise above party politics and become truly public newspapers, equitably representing all the voices, experiences and aspirations of the entire nation in their fullest and most wondrous diversity”.

He said the company has embarked on a major restructuring exercise to meet the challenges ahead and was confident that “with the co-operation shown by all, the Graphic will have the best possible management, journalistic and operational structures and personnel to meet the challenges ahead”.

He explained that the recent changes in management structure was part of the restructuring exercise and was carried out with the involvement and consent of the workers and management. Quarmyne commended the staff, vendors and management for their hard work for the realisation of the objectives of the company.

The Minister of Information and Presidential Affairs, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, expressed the hope that the improvement in the company’s environment and facilities would motivate workers to improve upon their performance for the good of the entire society.

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