There was a ‘Big Brother’ at a stakeholders forum organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in Accra on Monday November 21, ahead of the 2016 December 7, general elections. The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC) was there too. Journalists from the print and the electronic media were there in their numbers.
The reps from the Ghana Police Service showed up. Political parties were represented and there were other dignitaries too.
And when the Big Brother took to the podium, he let the chips fall where they belonged. He did it without worrying about the consequences of his action because he knew he was doing the right thing at the right time.
Journalist and Peace FM Morning Show Kokrokoo host Kwame Sefa Kayi took the establishment on. He chopped down the big tree with his small axe not bothering at all where the chips landed. He looked right in the eyes of Mrs. Charlotte Osei Commissioner for the EC and told her this:
“My problem with you the electoral commissioner, I think it’s shameful that you charged the media to cover the elections. We are not a very sincere people we like to cover things up….sadly we won’t talk about it we will push it under the carpet. But you’re denying journalists the right to report the truth…”
Next on the chopping block was the Ghana Police Service. He craned his neck---eyes panning across the room…Looking for the Nima Division Police commander. And he did find him!
“Sir it was right in your territory only a week ago, but here you are assuring us… and the police service is very well prepared and all that. All of us are afraid to speak up why? Let’s speak truth to power all the time. Don’t come to functions like this and give us rhetoric,” he advised.
But he wasn’t done yet. Mr. Sefa Kayi descended on National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE). The state organisation is responsible for educating the public for instance on how to vote and their voting rights etc. He said the agency was cash-strapped and urged its staff to channel their complaints at/to the appropriate quarters.
Amid giggles he said: “NCCE you complained to us in private that you don’t have money. It’s two weeks to the elections and we’ve not seen anything from the NCCE.”
What is this hypocrisy and dishonesty that we’re pushing?” he asked.
Certainly, too much dirt has been swept under the carpet. Too many people are scared to speak truth to power. And too little has been done over the years to change this mundane discourse which by far has cowed or bullied many journalists in developing democracies. That’s a fact no one can challenge.
The executive has managed to scare the hell out of the media and the mighty pen seems to have lost its mojo. Though there may be some who’ve remained the course, lived on their pay cheques and refused to take bribes or be bribed. The fact still remains that most pen-pushers today, are in bed with those who call the shot and not those whose wellbeing, their job or profession enjoins them to focus.
It is also a fact that even ethics have been found compromised and integrity is suffering from extinction. Sad to say, the noble profession is under siege, albeit better than the yester years---the period military regimes pistol-whipped journalists, hijacked press freedom and planted what came to be known as ‘Culture of Silence’.
The irony is, even in democracy the media is being ‘profiled’ by the day and censored by the rulers’ gatekeepers. Power brokers are constantly on the nerves of the media, they’re confronted by foot-soldiers, intimidated by serial-callers and harassed by party surrogates and bigwigs.
And it’s all about money, kick bags and freebies. It’s all about gifts---such as cars, flat screen TV’s, refrigerators, fat envelopes and trips abroad. Perhaps what’s left is what we witnessed on Monday evening, when Mr. Sefa Kayi held the bull by the horn.
Is the Honeymoon Over?
And it was all great, I must say. But what resonated was his catchphrase: ‘Let’s speak truth to power’
With confidence and boldness he proved that there are still some who’ve fire in their bellies. They might be too few but if one man can change the world guess what two or three can do.
He told the NCCE to stop pretending as if all was good for the commission when they‘re financially constrained to prosecute their civic duties. He said the commission was broke and needed money. But they’re afraid to speak to power.
As if to say why cry to us when you know where to go get it.
‘Let’s speak truth to power’
The season journalist was also unhappy the way the Nima Police Division handled the ‘The Nima Clash’ which occurred at the residence of the NPP presidential nominee’s residence about ten days ago. According to him the Nima Police Command was pretending to be doing so much, yet at their backyard trouble brewed and they couldn’t do much to prevent its occurrence.
He charged them to be proactive and not reactive. The Kokrokoo host also wondered why the police had up to date not responded to the president’s blame.
“The President of the Republic is blaming the police, and the police have said nothing . . . but you’re assuring us that if anybody does anything wrong we will clamp down...”
The EC recently announced it will charge journalists GHc10 and GHc 20 cedis for Ghana Journalists Association members and non-member respectively. The amount is to enable the commission provide accreditation cards, even though it receives huge government of Ghana and donor funding for organising the elections.
The decision generated a lot controversy with a group of journalists dragging the Commission before courts over the matter.
“I think it’s shameful that you will charge the media to cover the elections.. I don’t think it’s a very a good thing you have done. You’re denying journalists the right to report the truth, the situations as they happen to people. I don’t think that is a smart thing to do,” Mr. Sefa Kayi told the EC chairperson.
He warned that chaos could happen if the situation isn’t addressed.
“If we are not careful, we will end up reporting disaster. Little things like what the EC has done to us as journalists are what start these small things.’
But not all journalists seemed enthused or agreed with Kwame Sefa Kayi. “I’m not sure I agree with him 100% cos I have questions to ask,” says Ghanaian Times journalist Lys Hayfron Asare.
Mrs. Asare stated on her Facebook Page that she thinks perhaps the EC was charging the minimal fee in a way to purge the system. She raised some questions regarding the media accreditation fees which the EC had proposed and the Nima Police Command involvement in that nasty incident that happened awhile back at Nima.
“Has anyone asked for the reason why some minimal fee is being charged for accreditation?” she wondered.
Is it a way to sanitize the cos of the proliferation of media houses (as a result of media pluralism? Shouldn’t the media house be responsible for their journalists, thus it is not the journalist who pays from his/her pocket?
On the issue of the Nima Police she asked: Did they really do nothing? How was the misunderstanding and confrontation quelled?”
According to her if the police did nothing the situation could have turned nastier. “I shudder to think what the outcome of what that incident will have been.”