Journalists tasked to be development-oriented

Ghana’s media practitioners have been tasked to shift their focus from political issues to development issues that affect the lives of the people. They have also been urged to give more voice to ordinary people, instead of focusing only on the views of politicians.

A Deputy Minister of Information and Media Relations, Mr Felix Ofosu Kwakye; the President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr Affail Monney; and the Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), Mr Kabral Blay-Amihere, said journalists needed to drive development efforts, instead of deepening the polarisation in the country.

They made the call at the celebration of this year’s World Press Freedom Day in Accra yesterday 

The day is set aside to celebrate the heroic work of journalists, take stock of their work and address the challenges facing them in the course of exercising their right to free expression.

The event was held on the theme: “Development Journalism, Media Safety and Integrity”, and was attended by veteran journalists and managers and editors of media houses.

Unnecessary and unbridled politicking
Mr Ofosu Kwakye said it was necessary for the media to guard against “unnecessary and unbridled politicking” and giving much attention to trivial issues.

 He said, for instance, many newspapers carried trivial issues with political connotations on their front pages which formed the basis for radio and television discussions.

As a result, he said, many important issues that bordered on development were relegated to the background.

The deputy minister, however, commended journalists for holding the government accountable, and urged them to also consider monitoring the way government officials used state resources put at their disposal.

Mr Ofosu Kwakye said Ghana was rated as one of the countries with an environment of press freedom, and supported the call for journalists to make much noise in condemnation of any attempt to attack or harass journalists.

Media Fund
He said the purchase of computers for journalists from the Media Fund was meant to support journalists but not to influence them to toe the line of the government.

He said the controversy that met the way the fund was used could have been avoided if the Ministry of Information and Media Relations had been more proactive in engaging all the stakeholders.

He said efforts were being made to resume negotiation with stakeholders on the fund, and urged the stakeholders not to take entrenched positions but come onboard to discuss the modalities for an improved way of managing the fund.

GJA President
Mr Monney said Ghana faced development challenges, including poverty, infrastructure deficit, poor education, weak health facilities, power cuts, political violence, ethnic conflicts and chieftaincy disputes.

Therefore, journalists were required to opt for the concept of development journalism, which called for the mobilisation of people to bring about meaningful transformation.

The GJA president condemned attacks on journalists, which, he said, were attacks on free speech, press freedom and democracy.

While noting that some journalists, being human, could engage in extortion or blackmail, he stressed the need for journalists to be accorded their dignity in society in the practice of their profession.

He said the unionisation of the GJA would begin by the end of the year.

Media Commission
Mr Blay-Amihere said although the 1992 Constitution guaranteed the right to free speech, the activities of some security agencies did not augur well for our democracy.

He, therefore, condemned any assault on press freedom, and urged all stakeholders to ensure that journalists practised in safety.

The NMC chairman urged journalists to reflect on their commitment to the ethical values of fairness, objectivity and truthfulness in their work.

“The NMC will ensure that media freedom and high professional standards are granted,” he assured journalists.

Touching on the Media Fund, Mr Blay-Amihere said there should be clear guidelines on how the fund should be disbursed.

The Executive Secretary of the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana, Nii Laryea Sowah, called for improved working conditions for journalists, and stressed the need for the government to pay the allowances of members of the NMC, which were in arrears for nine months.

There were goodwill messages from the United Nations and UNESCO commending journalists for a good work done and urging governments to create a safe and conducive environment for journalists to work.

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