Sir Sam Jonah, Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast
Sir Sam Jonah, Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast
Featured

Don't keep quiet, defend Ghana's democracy - Sam Jonah to journalists

The Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Sir Sam Jonah, has charged Ghanaian journalists and media practitioners to defend the country's democracy by not keeping quiet on critical issues affecting the country's governance system. 

Advertisement

For him, media practitioners in Ghana should be the standard-bearers of objectivity, the architects of informed discourse, and the unyielding defenders of freedom and truth.

He said media practitioners should be "concerned about some disturbing developments in our national discourse," adding that "In this era, where the essence of our democracy and the fabric of our society are tested, let us recommit ourselves to the principles that Ephraim Amu so eloquently espoused."

Sir Sam Jonah was speaking at the launch of the 75th anniversary of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in Accra Today [Wednesday, April 17, 2024.

The 75th anniversary of GJA is being celebrated on the theme: "75 years of excellence in journalism: Past, present, and the future."

He also encouraged media practitioners to use their platforms to speak on issues such as the perceived weaponisation of state agencies against opponents, the creeping assault on freedom of the press, the perceived lack of trust in the dispensation of justice, and the pathetic lack of accountability in the protection of the public purse.

"This is the time for patriots to find their voices," he said, adding "This is the time to be fearless and courageous. We cannot and must not compromise on our defence of the national interest."

For Sir Sam Jonah, "the success of our attempt at a democratic order will depend crucially on how free the press is."

FULL SPEECH 

The Ghana Journalist Association 75th Anniversary Launch Speech
By: Sir Sam Jonah

Theme: 75 Years Of Excellence In Journalism: Past, Present, And The Future

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests, Esteemed Members of the Ghana Journalist Association

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Ghana Journalists Association as we commemorate your 75th anniversary. As we reflect on the rich tapestry of your organization's history, it is essential to recall that my relationship with Ghana's media landscape has been long-standing and deeply committed. Over the years, I have supported and sponsored numerous events hosted by your association, even during times when such associations could be perilous, potentially leading to the loss of livelihood or life. Despite these challenges, my support never wavered, because I have always been consistent in my belief in the critical role of the media in shaping our society. I recall with fondness the MEDIA Encounter Initiative which I founded and championed in the eighties. The initiative provided an important platform for much needed dialogue between the PNDC and Senior Members of your Association during a very difficult time in our history. Most of your senior members actively participated in the activities of the initiative and can no doubt attest to its phenomenal success.

The foundation of our interaction has always been rooted in a genuine friendship—a friendship where honesty prevails, even when the messages conveyed are tough but necessary. Today, I carry the weight of that honesty with profound respect and recognition of your contributions to our nation's narrative. Looking back over the 75 years of your existence, the media landscape has indeed become increasingly polarized, with little room left for neutral ground. This polarization threatens the very ethos of journalism, which, like the clergy and the teaching profession, is a calling that demands integrity and a commitment to truth. Your role as the Fourth Estate is a cornerstone of our democracy, and your duty to hold power to account has never been more critical. The influence you wield is powerful, with the ability to frame political discourse and influence public opinion, making it imperative that this power is exercised with the utmost responsibility and ethical rigor. As we move forward, let us remember the sacrifices made by those who came before us, journalists who laid down their lives for the pursuit of truth and justice. It is upon their legacy that the future of Ghanaian journalism will be built—a future where truth prevails over sensationalism, integrity over corruption, and where the pen remains mightier than the sword in the fight for democratic integrity and national unity.
Let us recommit ourselves to these ideals as we face the challenges ahead, ensuring that our actions today will honor those who have sacrificed so much and inspire future generations to carry the torch of truthful, responsible journalism. The stability and progress of our Fourth Republic depend heavily on your resolve to maintain the sanctity of your profession and your independence as the Fourth Estate. As we celebrate this landmark anniversary, let it be a call to all journalists to rise to the occasion, to uphold the values that have defined your noble profession, and to hopefully continue to be the beacon of hope and accountability our nation relies upon.

Your association’s inception came at a pivotal time, as Ghana stood on the verge of defining its future, breaking free from colonial domination. 

Your Association, predating even our nation’s independence, became the crucible within which the fervent hopes and aspirations of a people were nurtured and expressed. Even before the formation of your association, nationalists like J. B. Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah, Kofi Batsa, Eric Heyman, Kofi Baako, T. D Baffoe, Kofi Badu, amongst others stood at the vanguard of the struggle, wielding the might of the pen and the unwavering spirit of truth as they used their voices for advocacy. Dreams of a liberated and thriving Ghana were expressed through purposeful writing and careful dissemination on pain of punishment. These were patriotic men who were inspired and motivated by the ideals of a free and prosperous nation.

Today, as we traverse the sands of time, and reminisce the jubilation of independence, through the trials of military regimes to the sometimes rancorous, other times harmonious ebb and flow of democracy, we find the essence of journalism tested and exalted. The courage, sacrifice, and unwavering commitment of your members have not only chronicled our nation’s history but have been instrumental in shaping its discourse. Insightful and courageous citizens like Cameron Duodu, P. A. V Ansah, Kweku Baako, Kwesi Pratt, Kwame Karikari, Kojo Yankah, Christian Aggrey, Elvis Aryeh, Sam Arday Clegg, Kabral Blay Amihere, Elizabeth Ohene, Haruna Attah, Kwame Amamoo, Mike Eghan, Vida Koranteng Asante, Gifty Afenyi Dadzie and others have paved the way for many today, with some embarking on the struggle for freedom and justice at personal sacrifice and risk. Sadly some of your members paid the ultimate price in the line of duty, and here we remember with reverence, Tommy Thompson, John Kugblenu, the cartoonist Jo Mini and Ahmed Hussein-Suale.


It is worthy of note that journalism, while it may propel diligent investigators, analysts and writers to great heights, is not a profession for the lily-livered, the deceitful nor the greedy. Through fair and foul weather, the journalist must be willing and able to tell the truth to the people.Walter Cronkite, American journalist of blessed memory comes to mind here. Most famous for his title “The most trusted man in America” he was the news anchor of CBS Evening News for 19 years. Cronkite's impartial reporting endeared him to a nation that needed trust-worthy persons with the public communication platforms of print media and, in his case, broadcasting to tell them nothing but the truth. Irrespective of the outreach of vested interests who would want the public discourse their way, he stood steadfast; embodied and informed the thought of the common American man in the latter half of the 20th century. His honest and potent reporting on Vietnam moved the American people and led the President Lyndon B. Johnson to famously lament, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.” The success of our attempt at a democratic order will depend crucially on how free the press is. In the words of Walter Cronkite, ‘freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy!’

In the reflection of today’s mirror, we observe a landscape altered by the winds of change. The once united front of objectivity and patriotism appears, to some, fragmented by the divides of partisanship and the shadows of materialism. The noble quest for truth now competes with the allure of political patronage and its material rewards, a phenomenon which threatens the sanctity of your independence—the Fourth Estate.Yet, this is the period when the vigilance of the fourth estate is most needed. As we stand on the precipice of yet another electoral milestone, in my view, the most consequential, the echoes of past violence, the whispers of disenfranchisement looms and I don’t think anyone needs reminding that the conduct of the electoral exercise together with its outcome is so important that the nation cannot afford bias and unprofessional coverage of it by members of your profession. I wish I could be confident that the coverage will be professional but am afraid I can’t, given the largely unserious way in which another important national issue- the most egregious abuse of the rights of millions whose livelihood has been decimated completely by galamsey operations, has been treated by your profession. I don’t know whether you are exhausted and indeed frustrated by the shameful lack of decisive action from the authorities to your interventions. All I know is that your association’s pen which is your weapon has gone eerily silent on this all important matter. I would have liked to see a more concerted and sustained action from you. Sadly, that has not been the case. Galamsey doesn’t make the headlines anymore and yet the country is experiencing the ravages of this terrible phenomenon every day. The alarming increase in children born with deformities, the epidemic of kidney and liver diseases, and the alarming mortality rates in the areas affected by galamsey activities appear not to merit your sustained concern. What a shame, what a pity! As Journalists the times we live in beckon you to remember your purpose, power and your responsibility. The price of the continued silence is too grave to fathom.

It is in this moment of reflection and anticipation that the immortal words of Ephraim Amu’s composition, "Yen Ara Asase Ni," resound with unparalleled relevance. The composition resonates deeply. Its message of patriotism, stewardship, and unity echoes the ideals that all of us must champion. What is truly remarkable is that the piece was composed in 1929, long before the nation state of Ghana was born! With extraordinary prescience, Ephraim Amu actually predicted the current state of our nation.
At this juncture, allow me to recite the English translation of this timeless
composition. 

‘This is our own native land;
What a priceless heritage,
Acquired with the blood our ancestors shed for us;
It is now our turn to continue what our ancestors started
Bragging of educational achievements; Or useless greed for material things,
And bad lifestyles are destroying our nation, and disgracing it.

Advertisement

Whether or not this nation prospers!
Whether or not this nation prospers!;
Clearly depends on the character of the citizens of the nation.

Whether or not this nation prospers!
Whether or not this nation prospers!;
Clearly depends on the character of the citizens of the nation.

Obedience and respect;
Caring for the welfare of one another everyday,
Selflessness in the traditional way;

Ensures each person’s welfare,
That is what will bring peace and prosperity to our nation.

Advertisement

Whether or not this nation prospers!
Whether or not this nation prospers!;
Clearly depends on the character of the citizens of the nation. ‘

This anthem, a clarion call to patriotism, stewardship, and unity, serves not only as a reminder of the ideals we ought to embody but as a beacon guiding us back to the path of integrity and collective action. I urge you to lead the fight against all sorts of injustice."Yen Ara Asase Ni" is not merely a song, it is a testament to the enduring spirit of our people, a spirit that journalists are uniquely positioned to amplify. As guardians of the public conscience, you are called to rise above the fray, to champion the cause of truth, justice, and national unity.

In this era, where the essence of our democracy and the fabric of our society are tested, let us recommit ourselves to the principles that Ephraim Amu so eloquently espoused. I implore you to be the standard-bearers of objectivity, the architects of informed discourse, and the unyielding defenders of freedom and truth. In this regard, all of us have to be concerned about some disturbing developments in our national discourse. The perceived weaponisation of state agencies against opponents, the creeping assault on freedom of the press, the perceived lack of trust in the dispensation of justice, and the pathetic lack of accountability in the protection of the public purse, this is the time for patriots to find their voices. This is the time to be fearless and courageous. We cannot and must not compromise on our defence of the national interest. The success of our attempt at a democratic order will depend crucially on how free the press is. In the words of Walter Cronkite, a widely respected American journalist, ‘freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy!’

As we approach the forthcoming elections, let your pens and your voices forge a narrative of peace, fairness, and democracy. The sad saga of SALL, the killing of innocent voters at Techiman and the unprecedented electoral violence at Ayawaso remain a scar on our collective conscience. We must all resolve that these unfortunate chapters in our more recent history will never be repeated. You should endeavour to be the bridge over troubled waters, ensuring that every Ghanaian, irrespective of political allegiance, finds solace and strength in the truth.

Advertisement

In closing, I call upon you to remember that the Ghana Journalists Association is more than a collective of individuals, it is a symbol of our nation’s resilience, its aspirations, and its unwavering pursuit of progress. Inspired by the legacy of our forebears and the timeless call of "Yen Ara Asase Ni," let us forge ahead, united in purpose and resolute in our commitment to the ideals of your noble profession. It is my hope and prayer that you will become a beacon of truth, integrity, and national pride, today, tomorrow, and for generations to come.

As trained journalists you have been taught to be wary of being overly optimistic or drearily pessimistic but to look carefully at the facts, the source, the context and any motive. Trust but verify. And when you have your who, what, where, why and how, do not be afraid to publish the truth. It is better to tell the truth that offends than look on timidly, sheepishly and cowardly as the country’s interest is captured for the benefit of a few.

Your acronym, GJA stands not only for your association but should also stand for Governance, Justice and Accountability - principles I encourage you to uphold.
Thank you.

Connect With Us : 0242202447 | 0551484843 | 0266361755 | 059 199 7513 |

Like what you see?

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...

0
Shares