Don’t get me wrong; Ghana as a country is quite significant in its own right. It also has quite an enviable sociopolitical and cultural history. But that is about all that there is to the country presently. In the global scheme of politics, economics and culture, our country pales far in significance to the image and stature it ought to be sporting by now. And this has absolutely nothing to do with the way and manner in which Ghanaian journalists project the image and reputation of the country abroad. In the pre-Internet era, what the 2016 Presidential Candidate of Ghana’s main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) cautioned media operatives about recently would have been smack-dab on point or target.
What media operatives – or pressmen and women – often report is far more mediated and/or modulated by the behavior, policies and actions of politicians and the leaders of the various fields of human endeavor, than the private and collective perspectives of these information purveyors themselves. For at the end of the day, agree with it or not, journalists closely monitor, reflect on and then produce for public consumption the goings-on at the highest levels of government, as well as the lowest levels of society. And inasmuch as the media may be aptly envisaged to wield considerable political clout, largely in the form of image-making, opinion-shaping and image-breaking, of course, nevertheless, the pulse of any civilized society or one that is steadily approaching the status of democratic civilization/civility like Ghana, is predominantly regulated by the caliber of the leadership produced by the concerned society.
The most acute problem of the Ghanaian media, particularly the non-entrepreneurial aspect of the media, composed largely of print and electronic media operatives, is working conditions or the right and privilege of being afforded a comfortable and livable paycheck or livelihood. And so politicians like President John Dramani Mahama and Nana Akufo-Addo do not creditably advance the cause of the operatives of the proverbial Fourth Estate when they harp on the imperative need for the media to be circumspect in how they select and present the news for the consumption of the public, both local and foreign.
In recent months, both two major leaders have had quite a bit to say about the generally lackluster performance of the national media. Both leaders also have a remarkable relationship with the media as an institution. Nana Akufo-Addo has been widely associated with the print media, largely with the proprietary or the managerial side of the media, in the form of his newspaper The New Statesman, which he allegedly inherited from his judicial-luminary father and former ceremonial president, Justice Edward Akufo-Addo, which prides itself in being the foremost consistently and longest-continuously published daily in the country. President Mahama has also been variously called a communications and/or media expert and a historian.
Whatever the reality of what the much older professional lawyer and his younger political rival and/or break-neck competitor may think of the media, one thing they each could do more of in order to healthily induce the development and production of the caliber of media operatives both seem to closely agree is desired in the country, if democratic accountability is to be advanced and enviably promoted, is to vigorously campaign for the working conditions of journalists and other media operatives to be significantly improved. In other words, merely issuing pontifical statements about what media operatives ought to be doing with their skills and talents would not cut it, even as Gen. Colin Powell would have forthrightly and poignantly put it.
Cast more pointedly, what Messrs. Akufo-Addo and Mahama need to do is to put their wallets where their mouths are. I also just happen not to fully agree that much of the outcome of Election 2016 depends on the tack/approach taken by reporters and other media operatives in the coverage of the same. Actually, much more depends on how politicians conduct themselves, both in public and private, vis-à-vis the entire electoral and electioneering process. For believe me, you can always count on the crème-de-la-crème of the Ghanaian journalistic cohort to call the shots as they see it, both objectively and subjectively. There is, of course, the rented press, so-called. Virtually every country has it. They are almost invariably wired to play their tunes the loudest wherever the manna of cedi/dollar notes rain down the hardest.
The rented press has also been observed to be most effective in countries where the lot of media operatives leaves much to be desired. Which means quite a remarkable slew of countries. This is where Ghana can beneficently angle up in order to acquire the enviable status of a standout. It is a leadership policy responsibility. For ultimately, journalists do not ply their trade in a vacuum, even as a soldier has been routinely said to walk on his/her stomach.
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