Last Wednesday, at a media awards dinner organised to present the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize as part of this year’s World Press Freedom Day hosted by Ghana, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo touched on a very important element of news dissemination that has been under attack of late.
The advent of social media has put one of the cardinal principles of news gathering — the checking of facts, cross-checking and checking again — under severe threat.
In their bid to be the first to break the news, many media establishments have sacrificed the professional rule to be truthful and factual.
While the unlettered in the tenets of journalism may be forgiven for spreading falsehood or factually incorrect information, the trained journalist has no excuse whatsoever to peddle falsehood.
Yet, some who claim to belong to the inky fraternity have been caught up in the web of propaganda, with their main vocation being the twisting of the facts or peddling untruths to suit their own agenda.
Unfortunately, some media establishments have become mere tools not only for churning out factually incorrect stories but also launching scathing attacks (sometimes in foul language) on people perceived to be enemies to the owners’ political ambitions.
Whereas social media are gradually ebbing away the professionalism that the mainstream or traditional media bring to the table as far as news presentation is concerned, mainstream media, especially in our part of the world, are tilting towards becoming a tool by which owners with political biases vent their spleen on opponents.
While joining President Akufo-Addo’s call to media practitioners worldwide to deal with the misinformation campaign by some elements, the Daily Graphic wishes to remind all practitioners that the primary aim of journalism is to publish balanced and factual news by way of information, education or entertainment.
Any type of journalism that seeks to callously misinform and deliberately put out fake news must be condemned by all right-thinking persons, for it has the propensity to destroy society and any attempt at effective and beneficial development.
The Daily Graphic couldn’t agree more with President Akufo-Addo’s description of the trend as a major threat to the integrity of the news world, which should not only be left to regulators to deal with.
We all have a role to play to ensure that journalists, who form the Fourth Estate of the Realm, perform their work professionally, devoid of personal biases and sentiments which will make them skew the facts.
That is why the Daily Graphic agrees with the President when he said there was the need for training, critical engagement by society, self-regulation and insistence on media ethics and journalistic standards by media houses, practitioners and their organisations as part of the process of building a culture of high standards of professionalism in the Ghanaian media.
Once a falsehood is peddled by mainstream media, it is very difficult to change it, as the public accepts any information published by the traditional media as the truth.
We urge the media, therefore, to be guided by the tenets of the profession and maintain the sanctity and integrity of news gathering and dissemination.