Once in a while, I have had some editorial issues in this column. The first feedback I have had in writing Simpa Panyin came from Madam Adwoa Yeboah-Afari, the former GJA President. I had written an article titled “Montie 3 Goes to Rawlings”, and the former Ghanaian Times Editor had felt that I had overshot the title, as it did not match the content of the article.
The second feedback I had was from Madam Gina Blay, the co-founder of the Daily Guide Newspaper. I had written an article, critical of the brutalities taking place at Denkyira Obuasi. This was in the wake of the unfortunate killing of Major Mahama, when the soldiers were angry with the people of the village, and had been alleged to have gone to the location to terrorize the villagers.
In that instant article, I had argued that it was wrong for the soldiers to have taken the law into their own hands, to beat up civilians, even if those they were beating took part in the killing of the respected solider. I felt that the soldiers were pronouncing everyone guilty even before they faced the law and that it was likely that those who took part in the actual killing might have even run away from the village, even before the incidence came to the media, leaving innocent victims at the mercy of the aggrieved security men.
This was at the very time that grief had engulfed the entire nation, including myself. Understandably, Gina Blay being a mother, might have felt more of the pains of the killing of the Major than most of us men might have felt, and might have been inspired by her grief to see my article as insensitive, especially when almost every single person was emotionally attached to the issue.
I knew the association that Madam Gina Blay had with Daily Guide, and the fact that she had the powers to stop my column. I also knew that apart from being a lawyer, Madam Blay was also a media person who believed in the freedom of the press, and editorial conscience of Journalists. So I decided to test the waters.
The following week I wrote a full article in reaction to Gina’s reaction, discussing the concerns that she expressed, and repeated my call for the soldiers to stop brutalizing the civilians, and asked the government to step in to protect the village from the ongoing brutalities. Despite being critical of Gina, the article was published in full!
A few weeks ago I had a similar situation with Myjoyonline when the media house debated some aspects of my content, believing that there were a few hard lines. The editor had called to discuss this with me, but eventually they published the article in full, after an editorial vote.
The following week I wrote in my article what transpired at Myjoyonline before the previous week’s article was published. The lady was like “hey James, as for this one dierr, it is me right there in your article”. There upon I said, yes, it is you right there. Next time correct my grammar, not my content!
That is the beauty of Journalism. You have the freedom to say it as it is, and to exercise your conscience, without deferring to anyone, and if you are being pushed to uncomfortable censorship, you either follow your believe and resign, or you conform to hurt your believe, and I am one of those who will walk away quietly if you try to censor me.
I have mentioned a couple of times, that I write what I believe in. I believe in Free SHS, and so I have written not less than 15 articles on the Free SHS policy since 2011. I believe you remember that I was one of the first people to publicly declare that I am going to vote for Nana Akufo-Addo in the upcoming Presidential elections, due to the Free SHS policy.
I have been very critical of John Mahama, in the past. But also I have been very critical of Nana Akufo-Addo’s government whenever necessary. In fact there have been times that I have been critical of the very owner of the Daily Guide newspaper, Honorable Freddie Blay, in much the same way as I have praised them.
Last week I wrote an article titled “Boot-for-boot and the making of power-for-Power”. In that piece I had argued that because our politicians do not have confidence in the Police, they tend to embolden their followers by creating sound bites that gets them to grow aggressive and defensive followers. Of course I had made reference to the then candidate Akufo-Addo’s all-die-be-die comment, and the recent boot-for-boot mantra from ex-President Mahama.
Subsequent to this article, I received a call from the editorial department informing me of some complains that had come from some readers of the write-up, and that some NPP followers were not happy about my reference to all-die-be-die.
I will like to encourage you, to, please read again, the article I wrote last week, and for you to do your own evaluation. Yes, those who were complaining are also entitled to their opinions. But I will like to make a point here, that I have followed President Akufo-Addo since I got to know that he is an old student of Legon Hall, and I believe all those who know the man will tell you that he is above some of these very petty patronizing fights.
I recognize that Daily Guide is a pro-NPP. I am myself a pro-NPP. I have said this over and over again, in this column that I am a pro NPP. But being pro NPP should not blind me in my quest to achieve balance. Last week’s article was one of the most balanced articles I have written. I do not see why anyone expected me to reference boot-for-boot, without referencing all-die-be-die. Sometimes we seem to portray that we are more catholic than the pope. I am sure Nana Addo himself, if he had read the publication, would have appreciated the approach, and laughed out loud.
I have read a few editorials in the Daily Guide that were not necessarily in favor of the NPP government. Fox News is a huge sympathizer of the Republican Party in America. Yet Fox news might have ever been critical of the Republican Party, and the Republican government, in much the same way as the CNN might have sometimes been critical of the Democrats, and so on.
I don’t know if this article would see the light of day, in Daily Guide. Publishing this article is of course a win for Journalism, and a further endorsement of what the founders of the paper stand for. But if it does not see the light of day, then last week may well be my last publication in the Daily Guide.
Still, the battle is the Lord’s!
James Kofi Annan