The 22nd Awards of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) dubbed: 22nd GJA Awards took place in the dying hours of 2017 with deserving members of the inky fraternity being recognised.
We are in the third year of a promise yet to be fulfilled – insurance package for journalists. At the awards ceremony in 2016, I recall, the GJA, through its President, reiterating the efforts being made to arrange an insurance package for journalists.
Apart from reasons for not seeing insurance as a relevant risk mitigating mechanism, I am still not too sure what could probably be accounting for the delay in arranging insurance package for journalists whose exposure to various risks in the discharge of their duties need no mention!
That journalists would do everything to ensure that we have a just society, particularly, through the publication or broadcast of information to draw attention to policy makers remains a truism. From ensuring that politicians don’t take undue advantage of the poor taxpayers to workers who press home demands for one condition of service or the other, the journalist is always at the beck and call of every member of the society including the mentally deranged! Sadly though, our ‘inky friends’ will not do same for themselves!
Journalists across the world face a lot of occupational hazards. For instance, the camera man of a TV station who attempted taking some footage at the recent gas explosion scene at Atomic junction remains fresh on my mind. Beyond the public sympathy, whether his family received any compensation perhaps from the GJA or not is not information I am privy to. Similarly and more recent was the passing of another high profile journalist, Kwadwo Asare Baffour Acheamong (KABA)!
The proverbial vulture reaction
Like the proverbial vulture, it is very easy to press the panic button and propose great ideas when we are in crisis or when something untoward happens. If it is not the death of a prominent young journalist, the likes of KABA et al, or a road crash that has led to the loss of lives of powerful persons in the society, it is likely to be a building that has collapsed and the local authorities taking the blame for not doing their work well and for that matter, plans A, B, and C are hastily ‘pushed’ across! Leaders of various trade associations, professional bodies, technocrats and politicians would make all the noise just because something unpleasant has happened. The hue and cry usually lasts not beyond 10 days! Soon, all the solutions proffered peter out!
The passing on of KABA was one that falls in tune with the GJA’s tribute read by the GJA President during the burial service thus:’…some people are bound to die young…’ was, for me, a subtle reminder that indeed, we should all be adequately prepared as mishaps can befall us at any time. Memories of journalists suffering some mishaps one way or the other for just doing their work still come to mind. The death of Samuel Nuamah, formerly of the Ghanaian Times and a member of the Presidential Press Corps (may his gentle soul continue to rest in perfect peace!), who died in a fatal motor accident while on duty almost 3 years ago, are on record. He is gone and his immediate family is the biggest loser. It was the accident that caused his untimely demise that led to the loud chorus to have an insurance package for journalists with the GJA President nailing it in a statement promising an insurance package for journalists. The call was naturally triggered not only by the accident but the fact that a life was lost and well over two years, no insurance while journalists keep dying.
The sad truth
I shudder to say ‘the Samuel Nuamah song’ has already lost its hit status and this has been long since! The recent passing of KABA has almost faded out. Everyone else seems to have overcome the tragic loss and forgotten about it. Can the same be said about the immediate family of these heroes whose memories still remain fresh on their minds, especially, waking up to the reality of no income to fall on? This, undoubtedly, resonates with a popular statement that no matter who you are, ‘tomorrow is not ours.’
Apathy towards insurance
Like most individuals, some journalists have a misplaced inclination that mishaps may only come the way of others and not them. In my discourse with friends in the inky fraternity, I come across many who attempt to give VERY SOUND reasons for not taking up personal insurance.
It does appear to me that most of our hardworking journalists easily disregard insurance, particularly, life insurance either out of limited comprehension or other reasons best known to them. If there was a headcount today, I will not be surprised if less than 20 per cent of our journalists have personal insurance policies. In the case of motor insurance, a chunk of our journalists would rather take a third-party as opposed to comprehensive insurance. Indeed, the reason is obviously not farfetched, as it is either to pay a little premium or to meet the requirements of the law or both.
Individual insurance decisions
Inasmuch as the GJA could do its bit by way of Group Personal Accident or similar policies for its members, it is imperative that each individual member of the GJA takes responsibility for their own personal insurance, not just as a way of safeguarding their future, but guaranteeing the future of families they might leave behind. Thus, individual members may consider personal insurance and other forms of insurance that would inure to their own benefits without recourse to expectations from the association. What matters most is that benefits could come from both angles – the association’s end, as well as, the individual’s own insurance arrangements. We must be reminded again and also appreciate the fact that the loss of Sammy and KABA really hit their families more than any other person or groups of persons. Their families must continue to live and must live mainly on financial arrangements (including personal insurance policies) made in the past, if any. Need I say, our real sympathies should not only be with the affected families, but equally important, are the journalists who put personal insurance at the bottom of their priority list!