Honouring our media heroes

Honouring our media heroes

This article has been prompted by an event and a question. On Sunday, October 29, 2023, the Ghana Journalists Association organised its 27th Awards ceremony at the Accra International Conference Centre in Accra.

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It was a well-organised event at which prizes were awarded to deserving laureates. The winner of the prestigious Journalist of the Year mantle went to Mr Erastus Asare Donkor of Joy News.

He was a popular winner, and the work for which he won the award was the subject of my column last week. We will return to the event and how it has provoked this week’s topic.

The second situation that provoked the topic was an article written by the veteran but evergreen journalist Cameron Duodu in the Ghanaian Times a week or so later. The title of the article aptly summarised the content, and was expressed as a question meant to provoke debate and action: “When at all will Ghanaian journalists honour Henry Ofori?” The article was posted on several social media sites and got some middling interest; but nothing on the scale that I expected it to generate. This is not surprising; it is unlikely that most Ghanaians know anything about the great Mr Henry Ofori, a.k.a. Carl Mutt, who passed away at the age of 89; 10 years ago.

 Since he was not a politician or a musician, it is possible that most people under the age of 40 would not have a clue about who he was.

The GJA Awards ceremony, which the organisation describes as its flagship event, did not feature any of the many veterans in the trade in any frontline role, and I doubt that a single speaker mentioned any of our pioneering greats.

In some countries, this event would be the one day in the year when retired journalists would be made to feel proud of their lifelong dedication to a profession that comes with little material rewards.

 If we agree that journalism plays a pivotal role in shaping the destiny of the nation, the nation has to recognise the individuals who have dedicated their lives to the profession and have left an indelible mark on the nation's history. Honouring these media heroes is not just an act of gratitude; it is a recognition of their significant contribution to Ghana's growth and development.

It is often said that journalism is the first draft of history, and Ghana's media history is a treasure trove of knowledge and insights as a result of the work of our pioneering journalists.

For example, people researching Ghana's journey towards independence still rely heavily on newspaper reports of that era. In some instances, researchers fail to acknowledge journalists as sources.

In addition, at a time when public confidence in the professional conduct of journalists is so low, celebrating past journalists who have demonstrated professionalism and integrity would send a powerful message to the current generation of journalists and aspiring reporters. It reinforces the importance of ethical journalism, accurate reporting and the pursuit of truth in a society where sensationalism and misinformation have become the daily standard.

Many journalists have made great sacrifices in their pursuit of the truth. They have faced harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, exile and even physical harm in their quest to report the facts. Honouring these heroes is a way of acknowledging their bravery and resilience.

Mr Cameron Duodu, who raised the issue in his article, deserves a huge honour for his contribution to journalism on the international level for more than half a century.

He and many of our media heroes and heroines deserve recognition, and I want to suggest a few ideas. The government, together with the GJA and the National Media Commission, must form a committee to explore how to honour our media pioneers.

However, there are some pain-free ideas which the GJA can adopt immediately. From next year, the awards must be named after deserving journalists. I know that the Journalist of the Year award has been (or was) named after Prof. P.A.V. Ansah, although one hardly hears this connection.

All the other awards must be similarly named. These awards can recognise excellence in various categories such as investigative reporting, photojournalism and community journalism.

We have to establish a Hall of Fame for outstanding journalists. This can be both a physical space and a digital platform where the achievements and contributions of media heroes are recognised and celebrated. The relevant stakeholders can establish scholarships and grants for aspiring journalists in honour of media heroes. These financial incentives can support young talents in pursuing journalism education and kick-starting their careers.

In addition to the awards ceremony, the GJA can organise commemorative events and exhibitions that highlight the life and work of media heroes. These events can include lectures, panel discussions and multimedia presentations.

The media houses that employed these pioneers can also erect memorial plaques or statues in their premises or past locations to honour media heroes.

We have to answer Cameron Duodu’s question with a resounding answer: NOW. We should honour Henry Ofori NOW, but not only him. We must honour Cameron Duodu, Larweh Therson-Cofie, Kofi Badu, Kate Abbam, Mabel Dove, Wallace Johnson, I could go on and on. The time is NOW.

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Honouring Ghana's media heroes is a way of expressing gratitude for their dedication, courage and contribution to the nation's development. It also serves as an inspiration for the current and future generations of journalists to uphold the principles of ethical journalism and to serve their country with integrity.

These heroes have shaped Ghana's history, and it is our responsibility to ensure that their legacies are celebrated and remembered for generations to come.

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