Journalists And Politics: What Venom Does To The Shell Of A Tortoise - News Hunter Magazine

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Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Journalists And Politics: What Venom Does To The Shell Of A Tortoise

I remember clearly what my uncle and Caretaker, then, told me when I revealed that I wanted to be trained as a journalist after Secondary education. I was a pupil at Rabboni Redeemer School Complex at Wassa Akropong in the Western Region. That was in 2001.

"You'll be beaten if your report on someone does not go well with them....Journalists are decorated gossips; they're liars. I won't allow that." Those were the words of Pastor Emmanuel Okrah. To him Journalism did not pay off.

Redeemer, my school, was one of the best if not the best at Akropong. The fees was somehow high, hence he was not wrong by asking me to be in the medical school and end up in the consulting room, where he could in his old age see me for consultation on his health.

In those days,anytime a discourse of career was put on the table at home, I had to deal with the frustrations that came with it from him and other family members akin to how a kid with uncovered sores prevents flies from feasting on their sore. That was the kind of preventive method I took did till I completed my course in Journalism school.

When Jaman North could not vote on 7th December, and had to vote the next day following a protest from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) that the voter transfer list the Electoral commission (EC) had compiled for the constituency was bloated, I was contracted by Multimedia Group to cover the elections for Joy News channel on Multi TV, Joy FM and their affiliate radio stations across the country. After the results were declared the next day, My Uncle who had in the past scolded me for wanting to be a media practitioner was the first person to call and congratulate me for that feat. I wanted to remind him of his words to me some 15 years ago,but I stopped upon a second thought.

Today, I have paid him a visit in Kintampo where he has been transferred to, and I will make sure I remind him of that before I leave.

Growing up, I was driven by a love for my society and Ghana as a whole. I wanted things done the right way for the benefit of the citizenry hence my love for journalism.

My class 5 teacher, MR. Paul Beeton Damoah once told me journalists wield so much power in the society. Perhaps that informed my decision to aspire to be one, especially when I realised they had the power to question politicians who controlled, and still controls almost everything in our endowed country.

Ghana is blessed with unbelievable natural resources but suffering from chronic leadership failure on all fronts. Are journalists not the group supposed to find a panacea to that problem?

Our work as media, in my view is to expose the ills in our society, meticulously ask why certain things are done the way they are done, and instigate positive change in attitudes and mindsets of the masses.
Again, our job is not only to report events and point out their implications, but also to anticipate problems and flag them before they become calamitous.

I started working with Sampa- based Gye Nyame FM in the Brong-Ahafo Region as a morning Show producer in January 2014, a year after President John Mahama was sworn in as Ghana's president.
My team and I have been incessantly accused of all kinds of things including pursuing a political agenda, running commentary on “issues we have no business talking about”. Some even say we are doing "lazy journalism” .I, however, have endured the pressure and the name calling as I did in my teen years to defend my profession.

In January 2015, I recall when the member of Parliament for Jaman North Hon. Siaka Stevens, claimed 'ownership' of a 6-Unit Class room block that was funded by the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) at Duadaso, a community near Sampa, I posited that the MP's addition of that building he lobbied for to his projects as though his common fund catered for it was needless and that, the NDC government owed the absolute right to call it theirs. I was called a "rented journalist' by the 'disciples' of the MP.

Besides, I believed all those tagging stemmed from a misunderstanding of what we do and what motivates us.
In the latter part of September 2016, a contractor arrived at Sampa to work on the town roads without any conspicuous sod cutting ceremony. Eventually,half a kilometre of road was tarred without any proper drainage system. To me, it did not make any sense, so were many of the indigenes. It looked like the authorities wanted to lurk behind that to bait the ignorant voters to vote for the NDC.

No sooner had the work commenced than Gye Nyame FM's morning show, 'Adie Akye Abia' questioned the rationale behind the tarring of the dusty roads. Critical questions were posed to the authorities, which sometimes ended up in Hon. Daniel Nti Ateware, the District Chief Executive hanging phone on journalists on live radio.

The apparatchiks of the NDC, as usual, said we were doing the New Patriotic Party's bidding.
My stories on the project were highly condemned by the NDC fraternity. Like America's 39th Vice President Spiro Agnew, government representatives said our news team had become a “nattering nabobs of negativism”.

I said to myself that if pursuing the interest of the people attracts the criticism that we have an agenda, then thank God!
Radio is a powerful medium, but for it to yield positive results, it must be approached from an enlightened, well-informed mindset, and that is what Abdul Razak Asiagodo, the host of the morning show stands for. I jokingly asked him of how he feels when he hear people aligning him to a political party. His response was: "It's very normal because it's their opinion and I respect that. I would probably have been worried if I were aligned to a particular party all the time but I drive satisfaction from the fact that, such calls come from both sides of the political divide and that gives me a sense of how opinionated I am. We all can't be on the same page all the time but no matter where we are coming from or going to, what is wrong is wrong and what is right is right irrespective of who is in the picture." I totally agree with him on that.

As journalists there is too much at stake to let the fear of being labelled as NDC or NPP cower us into a silence that will lead to destruction.

Many are the broadcasters who are tagged as belonging to party 'A' or 'B' every now and again. Manasseh Azure Awuni, Kwame Adinkra, Bernard Avle, Kojo Yankson and the likes have been backlashed because of their way of work but, have they died?

In my humble opinion, every determined journalist cares less about these political tags but national development. Our elders say the venom of a viper does nothing to the back of a tortoise.The slanderous defamation on broadcasters and or Journalists for political reasons does nothing to us instead it tells us to work even harder.

There is a new government waiting to be inaugurated on Saturday, 7th January. to me,nothing changes in our line of work, because the interest of the people will continue to supersede ours.
It may be true that talking won’t solve our problems, but silence won’t either!

The writer, Emmanuel Henryson Okrah, is a broadcast journalist and a reporter with Peace FM and Sikamannews.com


Email: piesieokrah@gmail.com

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