The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) is at the crossroads as it goes to the polls on Friday to elect a crop of new executive to steer the affairs of the association.
Some have described Friday’s election as a make or break moment for members of the umbrella organisation representing Ghanaian journalists.
Others also insist it is not a do or die affair for that reason members of the association should not see the election as such. After all, once the election is over there will still be a registered professional body (GJA) to run.
Thirteen candidates with one unopposed are contesting for the six positions at stake-namely President, Vice President, General Secretary, Organising Secretary, Public Affairs and Treasurer (unopposed).
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A total of 656 eligible voters are expected to cast their ballots on Friday in the election in which three candidates are contesting the seat for the president, four for Vice, two for General Secretary, two for Organising Secretary, two for Public Affairs with the position of Treasurer going unopposed.
GJA contestants cry foul
Prior to this, the association went through some rough hurdles with the upcoming election witnessing some tensed moments, acrimony and controversies and at a point it was difficult to see an end in sight.
This was after some contestants vying for various positions in the election alleged that the polls could be rigged.
The aggrieved contestants included Mr Llyod Evans, aspiring President; Mr Francis Kokutse, aspiring Vice President; Mr Vance Azu, aspiring Organising Secretary; and Mr Kofi Yeboah, aspiring General Secretary.
In a press statement, they jointly attributed their fear to what they termed questionable actions and inaction of the Electoral Commission ( EC) which were worrying developments that could undermine the integrity of the election.
The four contestants previously dragged the GJA to an Accra High Court (General Jurisdiction), over their disqualification from the national election of the association which was initially slated for March 2017.
The case was, however, withdrawn from the court and settled amicably between the parties.
Mr Johnnie Aryeetey, Director of Television at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), who is also contesting the position of President, had raised issues with the processes leading to the election.
Two other journalists from the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), Messrs. Charles Benoni Okine and Enoch Darfah Frimpong, sent a letter to the Election Dispute Adjudication Committee (EDAC) raising issues of constitutional breaches in the processes towards the election and challenging the mandate of the current GJA executive to hold on to office and go ahead to initiate moves for the election.
Buzz on social media
In between this brouhaha, there was also a buzz on social media to kick out of office, the current GJA President, Mr Affail Monney, and his crop of executive.
Some members of the association, including private legal and media practitioner, Samson Lardy Anyenini of JOY FM, and TV3 presenter, Kwakye Afreh-Nuamah, supported a crusade to kick out the current batch of the GJA executive.
Reasons have been varied with some, particularly in the private media, rejecting the view that the GJA is a monopoly of journalists within the state-owned media houses.
Some even argued that journalists within the state-owned media networks were incapable of making rational judgements and that this view "unfairly" reduced journalists in the state-owned media to "robotic dummies".
It is most worrying that such petty sentiments were coming from a section of the media fraternity.
In my candid view, it will be most unfortunate for journalists working either in the state or private institutions to clash heads over their job functions. Rather, journalists, be it in the state or private media houses, must complement each other in the effort to be the powerful voice for the voiceless.
It will be a great disservice and a shame if members of the GJA lose their powerful voice for the voiceless and in the process lose the issues relevant to media development and growth.
As the fourth estate of the realm, the public expects the media to play their watchdog role effectively. Media practitioners, be it from the state-owned or private-owned media houses, are expected to do this with a higher sense of integrity and responsibility without infringing on the rights of individuals and the society in general.
Members of the GJA can achieve higher professional standards, to promote and defend press freedom if they complement each other’s work to the benefit of the masses and wellbeing of the country.
Thankfully, there is some semblance of peace within the fraternity and the path to a smooth election seems to be underway.
Who to vote for?
As voting members of the GJA head to the polls to seek a better fortune and prospects for their association on Friday, members need to use the opportunity to elect contestants who best fit the bill.
Members should, therefore, look at the bigger picture and examine the various contestants with demonstrable track record.
For instance, what has been contestants’ demonstrable commitment to the association over the years. Or is it that there is a vacant position so there is a rush? All contestants seeking for positions for such reasons must be shown the exit.
Journalists need to open their eyes and elect quality leaders and not opportunists and others walking on the corridors of power to take advantage of the association.
Founded in 1949 and registered as a professional association, the GJA listed as one of several bodies on the board of the National Media Commission(NMC), cannot fail the nation.
It is time to let the GJA work again.