Ambassador Kabral Blay-Amihere (2nd left) and Ifeanyi Ugwuadu (3 rd left) with other seasoned media practitioners at the meeting in Accra.
The role of the media in leading the crusade for a more integrated Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been re-emphasised at the maiden media summit on ECOWAS protocol on free movement of persons, goods, rights to residency and establishment on Thursday in Accra.
The meeting, organised by EcoAxis Integration West African Limited, engaged high profile media practitioners in Ghana and Nigeria in a discussion on how the press in these two countries can be at the frontline in setting the agenda for a fully integrated ECOWAS.
Kabral Blay-Amihere, Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC) of Ghana and former Ambassador of Ghana to La Cote d’Ivoire, said the establishment of ECOWAS was a laudable initiative which has seen some progress in the fulfilment of the dreams of the founding fathers.
He said the issue of no visa requirement for ECOWAS members to travel within the sub-region and the establishment of the West African Parliament are great steps taken by the members of the organisation to deepen its commitment to an integrated ECOWAS community.
Ambassador Blay-Amihere, however, noted that there are still some challenges with the protocol, in terms of extortion from traders, travellers and undue delays at the boarders of ECOWAS states, which the media can help solve through writing stories that highlight the plight of travellers.
‘The media must set the agenda for politicians and not to leave their destiny with politicians,’ he charged.
According to him, the media in doing so should avoid the temptation of assuming nationalistic colours in their reportage since that often leads to bigger problems instead of solving them. He urged the media to engage in balanced, objective and fair reportage.
Ifeanyi Ugwuadu, Executive Director of EcoAxis, when explaining the rational for the meeting, said the media has always pointed the finger of responsibility at politicians instead of looking within and acting on their leadership role of informing people about the rights they ought to enjoy under the ECOWAS protocol on free movement.
He said as media practitioners the main interest should be to report on issues that are in the interest of the public and not the other way round.
Mr. Ugwuadu observed in his presentation on media leadership and ECOWAS integration that there are benefits such as wider markets for trade and opportunities that could be derived from a fully integrated ECOWAS region.
He, however, advocated for the use of creativity, knowledge, and curiosity by the media to get interesting stories that would not only inform and educate readers, but also hold leaders accountable to protocols they have rectified.
The realisation of the need for an economic integration by ECOWAS through the free flow of persons, goods and services among West African states, inspired the enactment of a Protocol on free movement of persons, and the right of residence and establishment in 1979.
The first phase of the Protocol, approved by all member states in 1980, ensured the free entry of citizens from member states without visa into any ECOWAS state for ninety days.
The second phase of the Protocol on the right of residence became effective in July 1986 and all member states again ratified it. However, the right of establishment is yet to see the light of day.
EcoAxis was incorporated in 2013 to provide integration backbone to the peoples, businesses and governments of West African states, through effective information gathering and distribution across the region via high media coverage.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
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