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General News | May 8, 2004

Oh NMC, Ah GIJ, Hmm GBC As They Goof Badly

ERIC MENSAH-AYETTEY FOR GYE NYAME CONCORD

THE CERTIFICATION, practice and supervision of journalism in Ghana came under intense pressure last week. Aside of my piece on the woes of GIJ and others, the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) and the National Media Commission (NMC) received bad publicity.

The GIJ, which is one of two institutions in the country that are charged with the responsibility of certifying individuals to practice journalism, was reported to have certified an unqualified lady, Ms. Pendiland Wereko-Brobbey to practice the profession. The story has it that the lady failed her Press Law exam but the authorities decided to give her the diploma certificate.

The Press law lecturer, Mr. Ewusi Brown, disclosed this information to the public. Judging by the tone of his voice, Mr. Brown was very disappointed and could not help but call for the resignation of the Registrar, Mr. Kwaku Amponsah. When contacted, Mr. Amponsah who did not want to go down alone said that he was forced to give the certificate to Ms. Wereko-Brobbey by high-ranking officials.

It is obvious that there cannot be anything high-ranking as far as GIJ is concerned without the involvement of the Director of the Institute, Mr. David Newton. Therefore Mr. Newton was contacted to find out whether he ordered the gratis issuance of a diploma. It was after I had listened to him that I got the whole picture.

Mr. Brown, the Press Law lecturer, submitted his results three days before graduation. While waiting for the results, Mr. Amponsah, in order not to be caught unprepared, made sure that certificates to be awarded to all students who took part in the final diploma exams were signed. In addition, the brochure for the graduation ceremony was printed with the names of all final year students inscribed therein. However, when Mr. Brown brought his results, this controversial lady had failed.

Mr. Amponsah was put in a state of complete dilemma. Two voices belonging to some unseen forces might have spoken to him at the same time. One might have said 'take out her signed certificate and order the reprinting of the brochure without her name'. The other voice said 'that would cause financial loss to GIJ so withdraw her certificate and inform her that she failed in Press Law so cannot get her certificate'. Unfortunately, instead of listening to the first voice, he listened to the second one due to time and financial constraints. Somehow the lady did not hear the bad news.

On the day of graduation, she dressed immaculately, and in the company of her friends, family and loved ones arrived on GIJ campus in style. I am sure that she must have prepared some light refreshment for her guests like all her course mates. While seated among her colleagues in her black academic pomposity ('acapi') gown, she must have been thanking God Almighty for seeing her through the course and contemplating the kind of 'walkings' she must use to go for her certificate when she is called upon to do so.

But that was not to be. According to Mr. Amponsah he took her certificate out and cancelled her name from the brochure that was used in inviting the graduating students for their certificates. In other words, the lady's name was skipped. This is where her woes must have begun.

Mr. Newton recounted that the lady walked to the dais and in the clear view of her colleagues, invited dignitaries and members of the diplomatic corps, demanded her certificate. He continued that to avoid creating a scene that could have marred the occasion, it was resolved that she must be given the certificate. Mr. Newton claims that since then, he has verbally requested the lady as well as written formally to her for the certificate to be returned.

She could then join her juniors who would be writing their final exams in June this year to re-write the Press law exam. Mr. Newton has assured all concerned stakeholders that this unfortunate incident would not recur in the future.

While accepting his assurance, I wish to state that like any human institution this unfortunate incident will recur in the future. I say so because I know the stress and frustration that the management of GIJ and the graduation planning committee go through every year. However, when it happens I expect a better and matured way of handling the situation.

What happened gives ample evidence of the lack of communication and personality clashes between and among lecturers and management of the institute. I believe that if Mr. Amponsah had informed Mr. Brown about his dilemma, which resulted from his (Mr. Brown's) late submission of the Press Law results and how he intended to resolve it, that nasty incident could have been averted. This gives a clear indication that all is not well between Messrs. Amponsah and Brown. The earlier their problem, whatever it may be, is resolved, the better it would be for GIJ in particular and journalism in general.

Another indication that one gets from what went on is that all is not well between Mr. Brown and the lady in the centre of the storm. This view stems from the fact that most lecturers fail their students reluctantly. More so in a final examination. That is to say failure comes if the student has performed so badly that a pass mark will do more harm than good to him or her. There are a few though, who will fail the student even if he or she is supposed to have passed.

It is against this background that one would have thought that if as a lecturer, Mr. Brown could not, for professional reasons pass Ms. Wereko-Brobbey, he should have rejoiced at the decision by the authorities to give her the certificate. The way he reacted suggests something that one can only imagine but cannot say because Mr. Brown is a lawyer.

Anyway, Ms. Pendiland Wereko Brobbey has in keeping with the dignity and integrity associated with her Surname returned the certificate to GIJ. Mr. Amponsah has also apologized to all concerned for saying that the certificate is worthless. It is hoped that the 'allutaing' students would forgive him. He must have learnt his lessons.

Having dealt with the certification of journalism, the practice of the profession was put under the microscope by renowned columnists like Professor Kwesi Yankah and Mr. K. B Asante. Other members of the panel that discussed the media on 'MEDIA SCOPE', which was shown on GTV were Professor Ivan Addae-Mensah who was the host and Dr. Bonna Koomson.

Among the issues that were raised were headlines that are not representative of the story. An example was 'KWESI BOTCHWAY WANTED'. Rather than he being wanted for a crime or something bad he may have done, the story was that he was being sought after for his good works. Bad sentence construction and misuse of 'big' words as well as plagiarism were also identified.

The highlight of the programme for me, was the 'same story, wording and style but different authors' that appeared in The Statesman and the Weekend Heritage. Although it attracted laughter from the panellists, they did not mince words in their condemnation of the act of plagiarism perpetrated by the Weekend Heritage. That shows how lazy some editors can be. A very good editor should have realized the similarity as well as the fact that The Statesman had published the same story earlier.

Now to the issue of supervision. The NMC, which exercises supervisory responsibility over the practice of journalism, was again caught in the muddy waters of the GBC affair.

Unknown to many Ghanaians the NMC, in the wake of demonstration by GBC workers to demand the removal from office of their DG, Ms Eva Lokko, constituted a committee made up of three of its members, Mrs. Gifty Afenyi-Dadzie, Alhaji Abubakar Siddique and one other person.

In a report published by The Statesman 'seconded' by the Daily Guide, the aforementioned committee is said to have recommended the termination of the appointment of Ms. Lokko upon the expiration of her probationary period of one year. However, in a bizarre move to cover its tracks the NMC issued an unnecessary rejoinder denying the existence of any such recommendation. The Statesman then published the full report of the committee.

Matters worsened when the chairman of the commission, Mr. Kusi Atansah, betrayed the members of this committee, during an interview on JOY FM. Hear him, “I don't want to say they acted ultra vires but they went beyond what they were asked to do”. As it is, he has kick-started a cold war between members of the aforementioned committee and the beleaguered Director of GBC, Ms. Eva Lokko.

There is no doubt that Siddique and Gifty feel betrayed. Some have said that if they were in their shoes, immediate resignation would have been the only reaction. But this is Ghana; people can sacrifice their dignity for 'Kakraa ye be di inti' .

Interestingly, the GBC itself was involved in a controversy over an order to the effect that Mr. Ato Konduah, one of the most objective social commentators of our time, should not be allowed on its airwaves. Mr. Konduah had described the Chairman of the Board of GBC, Professor. Addai, as being incompetent. I expected this reaction, due to the profuse apology rendered at the end of that programme by Ms. Gifty Anti who hosted it. I end by quoting Gifty Anti, “if you can't stand criticism, don't criticize”.

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