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06.06.2005 Press Review

EDITORIAL: Who is being unpatriotic

Chronicle

Thomas Jefferson is reported to have reflected, almost on the eve of writing the U.S. Constitution thus:

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Twenty years later, when he was close to the end of his second term as president, Jefferson made a U-turn:

“The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.”

Yet again, at a later time, he revised his judgment:

“Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.”

These three positions taken by Jefferson, were undoubtedly informed by how he was treated by the press.

There have, in recent times, been lamentations by government officials, on the critical press, to the extent of questioning the patriotic credentials of the authors and publishers of what is considered antagonistic of government.

In fact, the President, H. E. John Agyekum Kufuor, had also recently publicly not only lamented about the critical press, but questioned, not just the patriotism of those behind it, but also their 'Ghanaianness.'

This perspective of the President and many government officials, about the media, like Jefferson's is also informed by the way the press is handling public officials, particularly, government officials.

Not many years ago, many high profile members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, then in opposition, were writing profusely in most of the print media, with some having regular columns.

They indeed did very well, by keeping the then National Democratic Congress (NDC) government on its toes, through raising red flags on policies that had the potential of bringing hardships to our people, and drawing attention to the untoward behaviours of some of its officials.

As far as they were concerned, the interests of the people were paramount, and they needed not to be overburdened. The then government did not listen much, but bulldozed its way through, by exploiting its parliamentary majority to advantage.

Even when debates and votes had been lost in Parliament, the case had been well-laid before the public, through the press. Government officials had viewed the press as treacherous, with one top official, at one time saying a press house that had been besmeared with human excreta, was deserving of it, since what was besmeared was the weapon of sanitary labourers against the pen of what they saw as a very hostile press!

The scenario is not different today, with the tables turned.

However, even as government officials claim to be concerned about the effect of these 'critical press' on the image and attractiveness of the country to the outside world, they never fail to paint a picture of potential instability, by alleging 'coup plots.'

At one time under the NDC, when opposition activists were organizing public demonstrations against the government for the prevailing high cost of living, top party officials organized a press conference, to announce the discovery of a notice of a coup plot on the internet!

Since particularly, the year 2003, there have been too many allegations of coup plots or subversive activities, some of which the security authorities had neither dismissed nor confirmed.

The effects of these allegations of subversive activities, one of which has just been announced over the weekend, have greater potential of dissuading prospective investors than any publication of corruption against public officials!

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