State-Owned Media Timid — Prof. Karikari
Even though the 1992 Constitution explicitly protects the state-owned media to be independent, free and critical in order to demand accountability from government, they are timid, the Board Chairman of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), Professor Kwame Karikari, has observed.
“The state-owned media are behaving like chickens that have been kept under a coop for a long time, and even 25 years later, they are not waking up, in spite of all the constitutional guarantees for them,” he said.
Speaking at the inaugural Public Agenda lecture on: “Politics, human rights and the media in Ghana”, in Accra last Monday, Prof. Karikari described the journalism being practised by the state-owned media as “civil service journalism”.
The lecture was organised by the Public Agenda newspaper and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and was attended by media and human rights advocates.
Giving a specific example, he said it took the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) a long time to be able to report on the Woyome case, “and it was not John Mahama who asked them not to do it”.
“It was their own timidity of feeling unsure whether if they published anything about a man who claimed to be the financier of the ruling party, the Minister of Information wouldn’t call the Director-General.
“As of now, according to the 1992 Constitution, the Minister of Information has absolutely nothing to do with the state-owned media. They are independent, but they are not yet awakened from the slumber of all the decades of state control. That is the problem that I see,” Prof. Karikari explained.
No critical analysis
Answering questions on the absence of critical analysis in the state-owned media, Prof. Karikari said he felt that those working in such media organisations were tired, alienated from what they were doing or that there was no strong editorial leadership.
He said it was rare to get a critical article published in the state-owned newspapers that could sustain readership and wondered whether it was part of the mindset that “this country is wallowing in such massive mediocrity in all sectors of our life”.
He said it was even more worrying when one considered the calibre of journalists in the country, with most of them holding degrees, adding that it meant journalists could do better if pushed.
Prof. Karikari challenged state-owned and other media to wean themselves off “chasing officialdom” and do independent analysis on issues affecting their communities.
On training, he suggested the need to take a critical look at the syllabi and the method of delivery in journalism training institutions.
He said the dilemma confronting the trainer was how to balance the intellectual development of students of communications and the professional skills of those students, which he described as critical.
He expressed concern over the fact that even at the master’s degree level, trainers were compelled to teach students basic writing skills and pointed out that it was not possible to use one year to teach basic writing skills and analytical writing.
Prof. Karikari called for a second look at writing skills at all the levels of education, starting from basic school to the highest level of the educational ladder.
He also challenged journalism training institutions to begin a discussion on reviewing, revising and looking at the curricula, vis-à-vis what prevailed in other countries.
On the media landscape, Prof. Karikari took the audience down memory lane from 1822 to the present and how the media had impacted politics and human rights.
He said the media and politics were interlinked, just like “the teeth and the tongue — neither can do without the other”.
With regard to media ownership, he expressed worry over the growing tendency towards concentration and monopoly of the media, especially in broadcasting, describing it as “more insidious and inimical to free speech”.
Earlier, a Senior Lecturer at the School of Communications Studies, University of Ghana, Prof. Audrey Gadzekpo, had urged the participants to reflect on how well the media were doing in the area of human rights.
The Commissioner of CHRAJ, Mr Joseph Whittal, for his part, acknowledged the gallant efforts collectively being made by human rights defenders.
He asked Ghanaians to reflect on how the country had performed in the area of human rights since independence.
He acknowledged the role of the media in holding the government accountable and questioned whether the media were responsible in terms of how they reported on issues concerning human rights.
Mr Whittal said CHRAJ was ready to collaborate and work with all non-governmental organisations operating in the human rights space.