Just after secondary school, the assemblyman of my community had wanted to fund me to train as a journalist. But l politely turned down his generous offer. I still don't understand why l did not go into journalism. In a world where there is a proliferation of information, journalists have a duty to distill the kind of information that reaches the public. This is precisely because they tend to mirror the society and in many cases set the agenda for a national conversation.
For the past two months, l have been reading the Evening Newspaper of the Convention People's Party at the archives, and the impression l get is that journalists played a central role in the struggle against the edifice of colonialism in Ghana. As a vanguard against neocolonialism, some journalists have proved their mettle in recent history.
Journalists in Ghana, apart from those openly aligned to superior powers, had it difficult expressing their thoughts in print whenever the military usurped political power. Even so, since 1992, the media landscape has experienced an unprecedented liberalization. Newspapers mushroomed all over the country. The emergence of social media crystalized the centrality of journalism in nation-building.
Since 1993, Ghana's democratic credentials have been celebrated as a beacon of hope to the so-called Third World countries. Huntington's understanding of democratization waves in the Third World countries could not have reached its climax without the contribution of journalists.
In the last few decades in Ghana, the media has been hailed as the fourth estate of the realm. The power of the pen and the poise by the ink fraternity to scrutinize government cannot be treated lightly.
Regardless of our subjective views, the media remains the fulcrum of nation-building. Journalists risk their lives to inform us about the governmentality of Ghana. During elections, one of the founts of democracy, media men and women brave it to go to the interior to feed the public with information. Indeed, many journalists imperil their lives to receive peanut! To say it bluntly, most of them are trapped in poor and debasing working conditions.
Even so, juxtaposing journalism in the days leading to independence and journalism now, one can hardly fail to see that the drumbeat has changed in the media space. Nationalism was the lubricant of the pen of the pre-independence journalists. And rightly so, they used the power of the pen to whip public sympathy to join the fight against colonialism. Journalists, then, were nationalists par excellence!
Certainly, journalism has radically changed in recent times. While pre-independence journalists had a common mission to deflate the ego of European colonizers, many of our contemporary journalists appear to have no string to bind them to pursue a national agenda. Their pen flows on a pendulum that swings in the direction of their stomachs!
While publishing marked the highpoint of the Reformation of the sixteenth century that changed the contours of human history, the print media has become a disgusting instrument that polarises Ghanaians. Since the removal of the criminal libel law, it appears Ghana had been plunged into an antinomian state.
Most journalists have become so reckless in their use of the pen. They fail to see how words are powerful than weapons of war. They deliberately misinform the public to engender ill-feeling for the political elites. Sadly, the reality is that you are deformed through the avenue of misinformation. Through the recklessness of many journalists, most Ghanaians have been poisoned and misformed about state-craft.
It is stunning when we find journalists deliberately and intentionally lying to destroy Ghana. I hold the view that journalists will be the cause of tension in Ghana if the Media Foundation for West Africa failed to bring some media men and women to order.
Obviously, Manasseh Azure Awuni is a brilliant journalist. But we must roundly condemn the reckless 'uncovery' he did. It had a hyperbolic bent that marketed Ghana wrongly.
Since no one is flawless, instead of casting a dented image of a journalist under persecution, we should be bold to condemn the lapses and blunders journalists commit. In other words, instead of mobilizing support on social media to do face-saving exercise, let us purge the sacred profession of journalism from some miscreants (not making any direct reference to Manasseh).
The molestations of journalists is also an apology of a country that prides itself as the paragon of democracy in Africa. Under no circumstances, should journalists be assaulted. There is always a space for rebuttals.
All said we need responsible journalism to push the frontiers of development. The economic and political morass in Ghana could be reversed only with responsible journalism.
To be misinformed is to be deformed.
Charles Prempeh (prempehgideo[email protected]), African University College of Communications, Accra
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