Source: Graphic Online

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Right Reverend Professor Emmanuel Martey, has challenged the media to conscientise civil society to become more proactive in taking the necessary steps to address national challenges and accelerate the country’s pace of development.

He said institutions of national life had been tainted in one form or another by the actions and inaction of their officials, a situation which has led to a loss of confidence in them.

But he added that “just as there are bad pastors, bad politicians and bad journalists, there are bad policemen; but let us not judge institutions by the bad lots”.

That, he said, could be attained if the media told the people the truth about the situation they were in currently and where they ought to be.

“The media is there to protect the interest of the citizenry, warning and conscientising them to the situation in which they are and the situation in which they ought to be. This is what we need,” he said.

Civil society

Civil society in Ghana, he observed, had become passive, thereby requiring such conscientisation that would galvanise it into action.

Rt. Rev. Prof. Martey said this when he addressed the concluding part of the Graphic/STAR-Ghana National Dialogue on Media Ethics and Transparency in Frequency Allocation in Accra yesterday.

Most of the woes of Ghanaians, he said, had been because of the passivity of civil society and even though the country was touted as a religious one, the same religious people were using religion to cover their unethical behaviours and wicked acts.

He said no government could be held accountable if civil society was not well-informed about what the government and state institutions were doing or failing to do.

Need for effective watchdog

He said a very effective watchdog was badly needed in young democracies such as Ghana that were not strong and could easily be pressurised by governments.

“Besides, in situations where legislatures, judiciaries and other oversight bodies appointed by the government are powerless against governing officials or are themselves corruptible, it is the media that is left as an institution that can truly check against corrupt leadership and abuse of power,” he said.

But such democratic role on the part of the media, he advised, called for boldness in exposing the abuse and excesses of all leaders in society at the political, religious, traditional, corporate and all other levels.

Journalists on government payroll

Towards that end, he said, it was regrettable that some journalists in the state media were placed on the payroll of governments to work as spies on their colleagues who were tagged as being against the government in power.

The media, he said, must also provide an arena for public debate that would lead to more meaningful and intelligent decisions and formation of policies.

“The quality of a nation’s democracy determines the quality of that nation’s media and the converse is true that the quality of a country’s media determines the quality of the country’s democratic governance,” he noted.

The media, he said, had failed to play its watchdog and anticipatory role in informing the relevant leadership of the extent of filth and the predisposing factors that led to the recent cholera outbreak that claimed so many lives.

Rt. Rev. Prof. Martey urged the media not have a blurred vision for impending disasters in this age of information, communication and technology.

Active press and effective opposition

“In a new and fledgling democracy such as ours, an active free press and very effective opposition constitute the best early warning system that a country threatened by any disastrous event could have,” he said.

The Ghanaian media, he said, faced a range of ethical issues on a daily basis. he therefore advised that journalists must endeavour to live by the Ghana Journalists Association’s code of ethics as the surest means for self-monitoring.

He urged journalists to seek the truth and report it in all that they did; to minimise harm and be accountable and transparent.

He also said the National Communications Authority (NCA) had to cede its mandate of allocating frequencies to the National Media Commission (NMC) and rather provide technical support.

NCA is government-controlled

That, he said, was because the top echelons of the NCA were appointed by the government but such a government-controlled entity was inimical to national development and the independence of the media.

He found it strange that somehow, a legislative provision made in the regulation that set up the functions of the NCA had been smuggled out and said that ought to be investigated.

He advocated public hearings on the allocation of frequencies as a sure means of ensuring transparency and due diligence.

He also called for a review of teaching/learning materials for schoolchildren to include focus on materials that would instil patriotism in them at the tender stage.

Graphic involved in Ghana’s solutions

The Managing Director of Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), Mr Ken Ashigbey, said Graphic’s partnership with STAR-Ghana was a move to ensure the company’s involvement in the solutions to the challenges that confronted the country.

He added that there were basic questions in the media landscape that had to be addressed comprehensively in order to avoid “tyranny of the press” and indicated that the collaboration had advanced that cause.

The Project Manager of STAR-Ghana, Mr Ibrahim Amadu Tanko, said even though the media had been at the forefront of the struggle for democracy, its actions after the attainment of democracy had threatened the process hence the investment of resources by STAR-Ghana to address some of those challenges.

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