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Uneducated citizenry is like a pitch any game can be played on it. Illiteracy is what has given the politicians in Ghana the chance to fool so many people for so a long a time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Feature: Who Will Cast The First Stone At Baby Ansaba?

Ansaba stands accused, but he will not be in the dock alone.
Ansaba stands accused, but he will not be in the dock alone.

Unfortunately, the noisy empty barrels and those who fabricate stories are more in the minds of the public and have clouded the good works of the rest.
Kofi Akordor
I never had the privilege of listening directly to what I will describe as the ‘confessions’ of Ebenezer Ato Sam, aka Baby Ansaba, on how he fabricated stories, which he knew very well to be untrue, for political, monetary and other favours.

What is common knowledge now is that Ansaba’s confession has attracted wild and general condemnation from many and brought into question the professional integrity of journalists and how they contribute to the shaping of the political culture of this country.

Some people may not admit it, but the truth is that much as we may stand on the rooftops to condemn Ebenezer Ato Sam, who has decided, by some strange reasons, to be known in media circles as Baby Ansaba, his case is just a graphic picture of the criminality, vile and vicious propaganda and the immorality that we have introduced into our politics and media practice.

If our politicians were to play it straight according to the rules of the game, if they were sincere about their pledges to turn around the fortunes of this country and make the citizens happier and more comfortable, there would not be any fertile ground for people such as Ansaba to germinate, let alone flourish. Indeed the Baby Ansaba’s in the media would have been irrelevant.

There is no doubt that the media are a powerful and important tool that drive the wheels of democracy. That is why it is very easy to detect the first and commonest signs of dictatorship as the absence of media freedom, which epitomises lack of freedom of expression.

The media can also leave powerful images in the minds of people. That is why people in powerful positions, whether in business or politics, or people aspiring to capture power or dislodge others from power and control people, will seek solace in the comfortable bosom of the media to set the agenda rolling.

In Ghana, our politicians, for some strange reasons, have chosen to use the media not to propagate their ideas, ideals and strengths to win the confidence and support of the people but rather to destroy their opponents. So some have established their own newspapers, radio and television stations not to do journalism but pure propaganda.

Others have also found it more convenient to form cells within the media fraternity to do the hatchet work for them and for which they are prepared to offer anything, from huge sums of money, vehicles, houses and the privilege of going on overseas trips.

We may forget so soon, but if we can recall some of the things that were said on the various radio and television stations or published in the newspapers in 2008 when the presidential and parliamentary elections were approaching their climax, we could see the hidden hands of politicians bent on winning power by all means, fair or foul, using people who described themselves as journalists.

Why, for the sake of attaining or retaining political power, should we present demagogues, mob rousers, people with motives who are anything but honourable, people without any proven professional competence as heroes and even as deserving national awards?

Why should politicians contract people purposely to join phone-in programmes to insult or vilify political opponents, tell lies about others and incite people to violence? Why should we make these serial callers, as they proudly want to be known, feel important?

In our recent history, some of these serial callers have assumed roles as show hosts and infiltrated journalism.

The media are supposed to light the path for the people. They are to serve as the voice of the voiceless and set the agenda for national development. They are to put governments on their toes and make public office holders accountable to the people. That is why they are often referred to as the Fourth Estate of the Realm.

Ghana has celebrated 52 years of independence without any remarkable achievement, at least compared to others in the same group. And that is the challenge to journalists in the country. We are still debating the best educational system for our children who have virtually become guinea pigs in the hands of confused politicians who cannot tell their right from left.

With all the good things we have heard over the years, our health facilities are poor and incapable of delivering good health to the people. We still import tonnes and tonnes of food items annually, while we have large tracts of fertile land. Almost all our industries have collapsed and the country has been turned into a giant supermarket for imported new and junk items. The textile industry, as we know, is probably the worst hit.

These and many others are the real issues confronting us, and it is for the media to highlight them constantly and engage politicians to focus on national development.

But the media cannot operate in isolation. That, however, does not mean journalists should go to bed with politicians and other public office holders for personal aggrandisement, at the expense of their professional dictates and the well-being of the majority of the people.

If the media decide to make themselves appendages of other institutions of the state, they will forfeit their mandate as the fourth estate and naturally their ability to play interventionist role on behalf of the people.

Yes, there are many journalists in the country who, against all odds, are doing their best to deliver their mandate as the eyes of the people, the voice of the voiceless, saying what must be said and generally making sure that this country moves from dependency and subservience to a fully independent status.

Unfortunately, the noisy empty barrels and those who fabricate stories are more in the minds of the public and have clouded the good works of the rest.

As someone put it, Ansaba may be an embarrassment to himself, but his case is an indictment on a media that are gradually losing focus and rendering themselves an easy tool to be manipulated by those who have more to gain and less to lose in the hands of a docile and corrupt media.

The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has embarked on what could only be a self-redemption exercise by referring Ansaba to its Ethics and Disciplinary Committee.

But is the association standing on a solid ground? How many members, including the executive, can stand aside or cast the first stone for not having fabricated stories in the past? Remember the Hit List?

How many of them have not benefited from the largesse of politicians in the form of cash, vehicles, houses and many other favours in kind for either suppressing vital information or fabricating others for personal gain, much against the ethics of the profession?

I pray members of the association do not behave like vultures who swoop on one of their kind who is now lifeless.

To some of us, Ansaba was not only confessing, but also lamenting for going down in the mud, without recognition and reward as others. Only if others will also confess!

Ansaba stands accused, but he will not be in the dock alone. The media in Ghana are generally on trial because in the last few years, since the inception of the Fourth Republic, many journalists have done more politics than journalism and they did crude and immoral politics. It is time journalists did some soul-searching and salvage their professional image.

Credit: Kofi Akordor/Daily Graphic

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