A new six-member executive of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) was sworn into office yesterday, with an agenda to promote the welfare and safety of journalists.
The new President of the association, Albert Dwumfuor, said the swearing in was “a new dawn” that would witness major initiatives, including a journalists support fund, professional development, a salary regime for journalists and a review of the 2004 constitution of the GJA.
The other executive members are Linda Asante-Agyei, Vice President; Edmund Kofi Yeboah, General Secretary; Organising Secretary, Dominic Hlordzi; Treasurer, Audrey Dekalu, and Public Relations Officer, Rebecca Ekpe.
A Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice George Kingsley Koomson, administered the oath of office to the executive to steer the affairs of the association for the next three years.
The oath of office was also administered to the new Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the association, Charles Benoni Okine.
The event attracted dignitaries, including members of the Diplomatic Corps, past presidents of the association, including Gifty Afenyi-Dadzie, Ajoa Yeboah-Afari and Ransford Tetteh, government officials, corporate and development partners and the clergy.
The ceremony brought to an end a two-year tussle over elections to pick new executives after the tenure of the past executives had ended in 2020.
In his inaugural speech, Mr Dwumfour thanked members of the GJA for the confidence reposed in him and the other executives to lead the association.
He promised to lead an open and transparent association that would serve the interest of journalists and Ghanaians at large.
The GJA President appealed to members of the association to come together to support the repositioning agenda, now that the elections were over and a new administration was in place.
“We will need the perspective of everyone, especially my two respected senior colleagues and competitors in the election, Mr Dave Agbenu and Mr Gayheart Mensah, to move the GJA forward,” he said.
He noted that in recent times, the GJA had fallen out of favour with some journalists and members of the public due to inactiveness and the lack of urgency in addressing the needs of members and the public.
He assured journalists of better days ahead.
Mr Dwumfour said the past administration started the process to review the GJA constitution.
“We promise to continue the review process, and hopefully by the end of the year, we will have a new constitution that addresses the concerns of members,” he said.
Consequently, he appealed to all members to take a keen interest in the process to review the GJA constitution.
Mr Dwumfour said the proposed Journalist Support Fund would offer legal services to journalists whose rights might be violated in the line of duty.
As part of the professional development of journalists in the country, he said, his administration would explore scholarship opportunities for practitioners who might wish to upgrade themselves or further their education.
Another important issue he said his administration would tackle was a salary regime for practitioners.
The GJA President said he would engage media owners and key stakeholders, including the government, the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG) and the National Media Commission (NMC), to improve on the wages and working conditions of journalists.
Journalists, he said, served the public better when there was cooperation between them and the people based on mutual trust.
As an association of high repute, he said, “we must work to enhance the public confidence in the media as watchdogs of society.
To do this, we will introduce the see something, say something campaign”.
He called on the public to report or volunteer information to journalists in the public interest, adding that the association would lead the advocacy for the strengthening of the whistleblower law in order to encourage people to expose crime and wrongdoing.
On the obligations of journalists, Mr Dwumfour said members of the GJA must always remain truthful and loyal to the people they served, adding that it was only through good journalism that “we can solve our societal problems”.
Journalists, he said, must promote high professional standards and eschew misinformation, fake news, exaggeration, hatred, violence and discrimination at all times, as they did not reflect the core values of the association.
He announced that the GJA national and regional awards, the flagship programme of the association, would be held in November this year, and that an awards review committee would soon be put in place to ensure a more appealing and competitive event.
The Director-General of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), Prof. Amin Alhassan, who chaired the ceremony, expressed the hope that the new leadership would improve the image of the GJA and ensure that professionalism became the hallmark of journalists.
He said the media had always been the number one defender of democracy and, therefore, “we will continue to hold duty bearers and ourselves accountable”.
Journalists, he said, should continue to use their pens to promote the development of the country, saying: “The independence of Ghana was achieved through the pen, not the gun.”
While calling for a united GJA front that would promote the peace and stability of the country, Prof. Alhassan reminded all that violence should not be encouraged, and that “those who used guns to achieve independence were still counting their losses”.
He charged the new executive to work hard to achieve the unionisation of the association to address the poor salary issues of journalists, as “a poorly paid journalist is a threat to our democracy”.