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12.11.2004 General News

Evidence: How “Madam Terror” Rules Gbc

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Due to requests that we publish the letter written by GBC Director of TV, Mr Kofi Bucknor, to the Chairman of the dissolved Board on his resignation following our story on “How Madam Terror Rules GBC”, we have decided to publish the letter (unedited) below for the scrutiny of readers, with one of the letters that challenged us to do so. This and other documents in our care inform our belief that despite the fact that he is widely respected as a management trainer, the Professor Stephen Adei-led Board of GBC, which was recently dissolved, deserved what they got. They were simply ineffective and operated on nothing but a “primitive rural mentality” of punishing those who stood up to their desires and wishes; something the said Professor himself complained of when he and his Board were booted out. Otherwise, how does one explain a scenario when after officially complaining of the unfairness of the interdiction as well as the process of interdiction itself, and calling for it to be righted, an immediate recall of staff is ordered by the Board with the person who pointed this out to the Board Chairman being ordered to be put on permanent leave till further notice (whatever that means). Maybe it is part of modern day management principles. Read on. THE CHAIRMAN THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS GHANA BRAODCASTING CORPORATION ATTN: PROF. STEPHEN ADEI Dear Sir, PETITION AGAINST INTERDICTION On the 30th August, 2004 I received a letter from the Director-General dated 28th interdicting me, apparently with your approval, for the broadcast of a news item on Ghana Airways on 26th of August, 2004 that was embarrassing to government and GBC.

On the 27th of August I sent a preliminary report on the train of events that led to the embarrassment, on the same day I received a request from DG to submit 'a full report' by the 30th 'to facilitate decision (sic).' The procedure we have followed in such cases has always been to submit an initial 'interim report' followed a more comprehensive 'final report.' Yet for some reason this decision was taken to interdict four newsroom personnel and me before I could hand in the full finished report on the 30th. DG's subsequent disclaimer that she did not realize my report was not final is untenable because of the procedures and the very content of the report:

i. the bald details of the source of the information]

ii. the personnel on duty

This could not have constituted a full report by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly did not explain how the report had entered into the broadcast stream. This hasty action therefore flies in the face of procedure; it contradicts the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and flouts Management regulations. Beyond that, and more seriously a careful look at the facts of the case would have shown the constitutional pit we were looking into.

Whatever the issue with procedures may be the following facts are clear:

a) the story was from PAN AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY, a credible continental agency whose story was picked up by news sources around the continent; it is likely to have been provided initially by GHANA NEWS AGENCY. The embarrassment caused was regrettable but it did not, and cannot constitutionally, be grounds for interdiction of journalists; there was no fiction, libel or malice in the story;

b) on the 27th GTV broadcast twice, a retraction stating, inter alia , that credible news sources such as the Daily Graphic and other national newspapers had reported the signing of the contract between Ghana Airways and its foreign partner, correcting the previous Pan African News Agency story carried by GTV on the 26th; this is the professional thing to do, and it was done;

c) without the DG, I traced and found the home of the Deputy Minister of Roads and Transport and offered him an explanation, an apology and a copy of the transmission on tape. He asked for the copy of the retraction I informed him we had made. I was unable to do so before your decision;

d) in the CBA (23 (F) and to common knowledge 'interdiction' is directly linked with investigation into criminal matters, and by inference suggests that those interdicted are suspected of involvement in criminality and are therefore sent away from work to allow for an untainted investigation. No manner of down playing can compensate for the personal loss of dignity brought on by the spate of alarmed phone calls I have received from all over the country; previous history should have shown that this decision would go public, (and that may have been indeed the calculation).

e) 23b (i &ii) of the CBA states that an employee shall first receive a written query, and subsequently where the penalty exceeds that, a committee shall be appointed to investigate and prepare a report etc. I first came across this in the recent case of Janet Owusu which is well known to the DG;

f) this radical action against a Director is not justified when he is not directly in charge of the minutae of the process ;

g) the embarrassment to Government caused by this action, at this time, is infinitely more damaging than the error that precipitated it; I believe I tried to sound a note of caution about interdicting anyone to you, and my real concern was with the net effect and the timing of it. I never anticipated that I would subsequently become a target.

h) the action against me was deliberate.

I must put on record my disappointment at this attempt to pass the buck. The DG has stated categorically in the Newsroom that as the Editor in Chief she has ultimate direct authority. The decision to use the interim report was completely irregular and I am yet to understand the rationale behind the decision to interdict me, except to imply that I am somehow responsible for the glitch. The logic of that should lead to the interdiction of the Editor-in-chief, who has regularly gone into the newsroom without informing me, to give instructions and threats, and in many ways undermined my authority there. On this occasion it is my newsroom?

When the issue came up, Mr. Chairman, you contacted me as the Director of Television, and I gave you feedback. I am at a loss as to what further information led to your insisting on my interdiction without any further discussion. In DG's 'interdiction memo' she referred to 'by-passing editorial controls and procedures' a tacit admission that such controls and procedures' a tacit admission that such controls and procedures exist. Even if there was some malfeasance, blaming the Director for a subordinate's breach of regulation, is like blaming and interdicting the IGP for a constables' misconduct. I do not deny that some incidents have tested these rules, and that they will continue to be tested, but I would like an opportunity to present the full picture on any incidents that Director-General may want to cite. For example in the case of a tape entering the newsroom via the former president's bodyguard, the initial breach was in the security that let him into the yard in the first place, and yet it is only the newsroom breach that is discussed; The fault was systemic before my arrival. It is this systemic problem that we collectively sought to solve through INTREND. That effort which needed tact and careful HR management was seriously compromised when the DG went into the TV news room, once again without prior information, and threatened the staff with INTREND, thus alienating them. It is instructive that even those selected for INTREND by the Executive Directors joined the resistance to it. We may argue that peer pressure was at play, but we cannot discount the disaffection. The existing team has been depleted by death, extended leave and transfers, leaving only one member who can obviously not cope with the load. The Executive Directors have still not been able to select a new team, and now the elaborate process of selection is supposed to be replaced by the Director of Radio and TV picking staff for the process. They are frankly, unwilling, and are unlikely to do it well. This is not my fault.

I have rather taken the HR approach and have managed a measure of confidence in the restructuring process, and would welcome an opportunity for my management team to explain it. The Director- General is well aware of the new structure we are attempting to put into place and has discussed it in detail at one of the meetings with newsroom staff on INTREND.

Prior to my arrival, DG and the previous Board had identified some problems and gone into the newsroom together to try to force change. Those problems were still there when I arrived and no one was interdicted for perceived flaws in the system. Why am I being singled out for punishment now? And it is cruel psychological punishment. I find it difficult to believe that the Board can take the measure of a Director without once speaking to him directly. Especially when the one undermining his authority at every turn is the only one they hear. I do hope that the information flow is not similar to the instance when the Board was convinced by the Director-General to ratify the creation of the Technical Production division on the false premise that Executive Directors had suggested or endorsed it. Meanwhile it was presented as fait accompli from the Board to the Executive Directors, who had neither input in it nor opportunity to discuss it. I must wonder in passing what the Board intends to do about that issue revealed at the retreat. Up to now no discussion on it is tolerated by the Director-General.

Unless the Committee has found anything to the contrary, this broadcast was due to an unintended procedural error. If everything that had happened since then is anything to go by, procedural errors due happen, and must be corrected – as with any system. The embarrassment it has caused is regrettable, but any more so than that caused by other errors in judgment.

I am afraid the Board has been compromised in this case by associating with this deliberate attempt to whittle away my authority. It is not as the DG now claims 'just one of those things'. My credibility in the Newsroom, my division and in GBC has been intentionally sullied by this interdiction. It is in the same vein as many such actions by the Director-General, but this was intended to be the final blow and was precipitated I am sure, by my contribution to the Directors' retreat at Busua.

Perhaps inadvertently, the Board has once again become players in the Director General's vendetta. This time it could have been avoided. Mr. Ken Amankwah's modus of complaint compromised his case, but the issues he raised were very real. This is the topping on a series of actions that confirm the Director-General's use of official structures to effect her personal agenda. I am attaching information that will explain my skepticism. It is in a letter I wrote after discussing some problems with you, Mr. Chairman, and was written on your advice. In the end I decided to use the retreat as a more pragmatic way of dealing with the issues. I was wrong. Obviously one meeting with the Board in 18 months is not enough to make one's case.

By this letter I am respectfully asking the Board to correct an injustice by immediately rescinding the interdiction on me and all four of the journalists involved, and expunging it from our records. I am sure that an investigation of the procedures can only help to strengthen GBC's structures without crossing the threshold of 'prior restraint'. I am also asking that the Director-General be made to refrain from using her office as a cudgel against her perceived adversaries, and effect the instructions the Board gave at the retreat regarding programme funding, imprests, barter and the other interventions the meeting threw up.

I would welcome an opportunity to make my case in person before the Board.

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