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23.12.2005 General News

2005 - Annus Horribilis

By Dr A.K. Agyei for Statesman
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NPP'S ANNUS HORRIBILIS; KOMLA DUMOR AND JOY FM NEWS' YEAR OF SHAME “Madam, my job is to present the facts as I see them to you and leave you to make your own judgment,” was Dan Rather's reply to a caller who wanted to know his opinion on the Is-raeli—Palestinian conflict after he had presented a documentary on the conflict. “Peddling one-sided stories is not journalism,” says another veteran journalist in a video clip on CNN.

Unlike these veteran American journalists, Komla Dumor cannot keep his opinions to himself when he is on air (listen to him between 06.30 and 06.50, Monday – Friday, giggling and cracking puerile jokes with his producer like two little girls playing house) and does not seem to care two hoots whether his stories are balanced or not. Further, he makes little or no effort to get his facts right and exhibits a disturbing cavalier attitude towards the feelings of others. Like the other whippersnappers in the media, he seems to think that he is not accountable to any-body and that he is untouchable. Dan Rather has had to resign his position as the CBS Evening News anchorman because of a small factual error he made in a report he put out about the White House. And that was after 20 years of service as anchorman.

Komla loves to cite America as a place where the right things are or get done, but he doesn't seem to know what the right things are when it comes to his own professional behav-iour, as demonstrated by the way he and the Joe FM news-readers handled the four major “scandals” of the year, namely the Hotel Kufour—GissellaeYajzi saga, the story of the “Ghana-ian bomber” in London, the Eric Amoateng story, and Esseku's gaffe. Let us take a look at them. If it has been a horrible year for the NPP and its government, it has been a year of shame for Komla Dumor and the Joy FM news-readers. THE HOTEL KUFOUR—GISSELLE YAJZI SAGA It all began when the President's eldest son, Chief Kufour, admitted to having bought, together with other investors, an uncompleted hotel building situated behind the President's pri-vate house. It was a “lucky strike” for the muckrakers and scandalmongers, who had for weeks been throwing wild allegations at the President and his ministers, and they clung to it like a leech. I have recounted elsewhere (see the 13 – 14 June, 2005 issue of the The Statesman) how Komla Dumor conducted on air from his studio a virtual court trial of the President, with himself as the prosecutor and Ms Gissella Yajzi, speaking, as we were told, from America, a woman he had never met, as his star witness.

This journalistic debauchery went on for about four days. Then he vanished. I called the radio station and asked where he was. “He is around,” I was told. “Has he traveled?” I asked. “No,” was the reply. I called my news editor and asked him to find out whether he had gone to America. I had the feeling that he had gone there to get a copy of the incriminating tape re-cording his star witness claimed she had. My news editor drew a blank. He couldn't trace him, and I became convinced that he had indeed gone to the U.S. And so he had.

He reappeared three weeks later to tell us he went to the U.S. to witness his brother's graduation from Harvard. Any mention of a Gissella Yajzi tape? None. Indeed, all talk about the tape in the scandalmongering NDC media stopped soon after his return. Instead of her sending CHRAJ or Radio Gold a copy of the tape, we were told by the scandalmongers, includ-ing Komla Dumor and Joy FM News, that she would come down herself, and for about a month the country was kept on tenterhooks. In the end she did not come. It was all a monumental hoax, and Komla Dumor was in the thick of it, unless of course he can look us in the eye and tell us that he stayed in the U.S. for three weeks without trying to get a copy of that tape. THE “GHANAIAN BOMBER” IN LONDON Joy FM broke the news in its midday newscast. A Ghanaian had been arrested in Lon-don in connection with the July-7 bombings. Like every other Ghanaian who heard the news, I was flabbergasted. I immediately tuned my radio to BBC, hoping to get confirmation from its newscasts. I got no confirmation. I watched the 2-pm BBC World news on TV3. There was no mention of an arrested Ghanaian. I listened to the 3-pm edition of “Focus on Africa”. Ditto. Was there a mix-up somewhere? I asked myself. Apparently not, for Joy FM not only repeated the “news” item in a subsequent newscast, it went further to say that the arrested Ghanaian was the son of the Deputy IGP, Dr K.K. Marfo, and the next day the front pages of the newspapers were splashed with this embarrassing news, which in turn provided the so-called social com-mentators a juicy topic for their “if true” analysis: “If the story is true, then we are all going to be looked upon as potential bombers when we go to London,” they whined. This went on for days, the protestations of Dr Marfo that the arrested young man could not be his son, notwithstanding. But then the bubble could not go on floating around for ever. It had to burst. And when it finally did, leaving the peddlers of the story with egg all over their face, did Komla Dumor and his Joy FM, Ghana's Super Station, Ghana's Station of Excellence, by his edict, apologize to Dr Marfo for the embarrassment they had caused him? Not on your life. They went on as if nothing had happened – on to their next coup de théâtre. ERIC AMOATENG The arrest of Mr Eric Amoateng was first reported by The Statesman, which went no fur-ther than stating the bare facts. Three days later, Joy FM connected the name to an MP, and after discovering that this MP had asked for permission to travel abroad and that he had been absent from Parliament for about a week, conjectured that the arrested Eric Amoateng and Eric Amoateng the MP must be one and the same person. This conjecture formed the main part of their 6-pm news broadcast that day (a Saturday), and the news-reader, treating it as a fact, pro-ceeded to read text messages insulting to the MP, the NPP and the Government.

This was repeated the next day, and Komla Dumor joined the fray on Monday morning, calling up people to put his usually leading questions to them, behaving as if it had been con-firmed that it was indeed the MP who had been busted in the U.S., and going a step further to declare the MP's guilt when the confirmation came a week or so later. “Have you seen the charge sheet? he shouted at a listener who had called in to implore him to go easy on the man because he could be innocent. And when Amoateng sent a letter home protesting his inno-cence, he was his contemptuous self: “Oh yes, he must have been taking a stroll somewhere in New Jersey when…” He didn't finish. Maybe for once he realized he was going too far.

Just for once. Only a few days later he was on air encouraging a man whom he did not know and whose identity and integrity he could not vouch for to implicate the Government in this affair. And when the man was later exposed as a fraud, he put him on air again in a desperate attempt at damage control. Clearly, he is not going to apologize to the Government for this blunder and will not apologize to Mr Amoateng and his family, the NPP and the Government if the MP turns out to be innocent. He is too big for that. He is the Super Host of Ghana's Super Morning Show on Ghana's Super Radio Station. Can you go any further than that, particularly if you had to scrounge around for a profession? ESSEKU'S GAFFE Monday, 28 November, 2005, must be one of the most memorable days for our Super Host. He was floating on air as he began his Super Morning Show. So great was his ecstasy that he could hardly concentrate on what he was doing and uncharacteristically misread a few figures and words. And what was the occasion? One newspaper, The Enquirer, had reported that the NPP Chairman, Mr Harona Esseku, had told its editor, Mr Raymond Archer, in an inter-view that the President was collecting kickbacks from contractors. The editor had Mr Esseku on tape, and a few days later Komla, after listening to the tapes, became even more ecstatic.

But did Mr Esseku actually use the world “kickbacks”? Mr Esseku said emphatically that he didn't, and Komla wouldn't say yes or no. “So play the tapes” became the clarion call.

This was done on Joy FM last Monday, 5 November, 2005. Instead of the word “kick-backs”, Mr Esseku had used the word “contributions”, and the callers, in contrast to the “texters”, were furious at Komla for having misled them. Of course Komla tried to defend him-self, asking the callers to define the word “kickback”. Members of his fun club held their peace. It was an anticlimax. CONCLUSION The foregoing “scandals” preoccupied the nation for much of the year, a truly horrible year for the NPP and its government. In between there were “per diem” and “hotel bill scan-dals”, all botched-up attempts to bring the President, his Government and Party into disrepute. But why would a journalist like Komla Dumor, who professes to belong to no political party, want to put his career on the line by indulging in such yellow journalism? Well, maybe he is doing what others before him have done: Incur the wrath of your Government and run away to seek asylum in some developed country. Or, better still, help overthrow your government, and you will get a good job somewhere. It is not difficult to see where Komla and his Super Station's news-readers would like to go. What is the saying? Ah, here it is. Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.