Pay journalists well - Information Minister designate tells media owners

BY: Severious Kale-Dery, Seth Bokpe & Timothy Ngnenbe
 Information Minister
Information Minister

The Minister of Information designate, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, has expressed concern about low remuneration and inadequate welfare packages for journalists in the country.

 He has, therefore, called on media owners and managers to pay more attention to their journalists than they did in the past, since low remuneration can negatively affect the integrity of their work.

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“The opening up of the media landscape in Ghana has been characterised by the growth of media houses with various interests.

The expansion and improvement in the sector has not translated into a corresponding improvement in the welfare of a lot of media practitioners,” Mr Nkrumah said.

23rd GJA Awards


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Addressing the 23rd Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Awards in Accra last Saturday, Mr Nkrumah said: “Practitioners are some of the least paid professionals in Ghana today. This is not good enough.”

The ceremony was held to recognise and celebrate the excellent contributions of media practitioners to the development of the country.

The event, which was on the theme: "State of investigative journalism: Boundaries of privacy and borders of public interest”, drew participants from across all spheres of human endeavour.

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It was a night of glitz and glamour, as 36 journalists, media organisations and other persons who had contributed immensely to journalism in various ways mounted the stage to be honoured.

The Morning Show host of Accra-based Citi FM, Mr Bernard Avle, was crowned the 2017 PAV Ansah Journalist of the Year.

Mr Nkrumah, who is also the NPP Member of Parliament for Ofoase-Ayirebi, said a better paid journalist was “necessary to get and to keep the best and to preserve the quality of the profession”.

Power of the media

On the power of the media, he asked the Ghanaian media to add to their investigative journalism and exposure of nefarious acts agenda the need to build the country’s psyche for excellence.

“You are the ones who determine whether Ghanaians will hear stories that will inspire us and challenge us to do better; stories that determine the sort of psyche we express as a nation. You have the power to determine if the next generation of Ghanaians will grow up believing in themselves, believing in their nation and believing in their ability to change the world.

“You also have the power to determine if they will grow up believing that nothing can ever work in Ghana and nothing works in Ghana.

 I want to encourage you to take this responsibility seriously,” he said.

Mr Nkrumah said the reinforcement of positive lessons “generates the snowball effect and gradually it will urge more people towards excellence”.

Inaccurate reportage

Turning his attention to what he described as increasing cases of inaccurate reportage in the media, the Minister of Information designate said the media thrived on accuracy, arguing that “the time has come for us to take a second look at how much of our work is a fact that we report, how much of it is opinion and how much of it is spin, so that we can preserve the integrity of the profession that we practise”.

With many blaming some of the ill-practices in media circles on lack of on-the-job training, Mr Nkrumah announced a capacity-building package that would involve the Ghana Institute of Journalism, the School of Communications of the University of Ghana and the National Media Commission.

Attacks on journalists

The Information Minister designate did not mince words in condemning attacks on journalists, particularly, and mentioned the recent assault of Latif Idris of the Multimedia Group and the recent murder of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi Arabia Consulate in Turkey.

Describing the murder of Khashoggi as a heinous and abominable evil, he urged the Saudi and Turkish authorities to find the perpetrators and punish them to serve as a deterrent to others.

On the local front, Mr Nkrumah, who, prior to entering politics, had been a journalist with the Multimedia Group and had hosted Joy FM’s Morning Show for years, urged the Ghana Police Service and the National Media Commission to work towards finding a resolution to Mr Idris’s assault.

Since the assault of Mr Idris in March, 2018, the Ghana Police Service said the victim was yet to mention the names of the police officers who allegedly attacked him.

Abuse of subterfuge

The Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, warned against the abuse of subterfuge in investigative journalism, stressing that the use of that investigative tool must be done advisedly in the public interest and within the confines of the law.

She said while investigative journalists had the right to peek into people's private lives, such action must be fully in the interest of the public and not for ulterior motives.

"The limit of investigative journalism in privacy and the limit of privacy is the public interest and so if we bear this simple statement in mind, we will not cross lines that will create problems because what is required is a careful act of balancing to reach a perfect equilibrium in a democracy like ours.

"So far as there are investigative journalists who want to peek into people's private lives, they must bear in mind the importance of the fact that in peeking into someone's private life, you are serving a public interest and not just playing mischief," she stressed.

Privacy and public interest

While eulogising investigative journalists for helping to check crime and expose the rot in the system, Ms Justice Akuffo underscored the need to constantly draw the line between the boundaries of privacy and the borders of public interest to avoid the abuse of the fundamental human rights of people.

CHIEF JUSTICE

Ms Justice Akuffo observed that the changing face of the media landscape as a result of technology required the constant review of the GJA Code of Ethics to reflect modern demands.

She called on the GJA and other regulators in the media industry to lead the way to ensure that journalists played their roles as the gatekeepers of the country's democracy in a manner that would not create friction and challenges in the system.