Can the government and media be friends without compromising? Veteran Journalist and Chevening Scholar David Ampofo explains why this cannot be possible.
By Adelaide Arthur
The relationship between government and the media can be a tricky one. Although Ghana enjoys a free and vibrant media, the same cannot be said about a number of countries on the African continent.
This freedom Ghana is enjoying must come with responsibility and for veteran Journalist David Ampofo, it is important for media practitioners to act in a professional manner as they perform their watchdog role of holding public officials accountable. The media, he says, cannot be in bed with government.
“If government is friends with the media, then there is a problem,” Mr Ampofo told the audience who had gathered at the Cleaver House in Accra for the maiden edition of the Chevening Speakers Series on the topic: “Holding Government Accountable, the Role of the Media”.
As the fourth estate of the realm, Ghana’s media cannot take sides, he said. Therefore, the culture where some Journalists have to be polite when dealing with “big men” is a big problem.
Mr Ampofo, a Chevening scholar, argued that it is difficult for Journalists to hold “big men and women” accountable when they are unnecessarily polite. “We need to be fearless, courageous and fight for the well-being of our people,” he added.
He also advised that constructive criticism was vital since professional journalism had no room for mudslinging.
Democracy is based on the principle that citizens are well informed. This is why the structure of media ownership in Ghana should be of concern to all.
The traditional role of speaking truth to power is often compromised when “politicians own a number of these media organisations”.
Many people have raised concerns about how Ghana’s media landscape is increasingly becoming partisan, where radio and TV stations are focusing on politics instead of handing the microphone over to ordinary citizens.
The media, David Ampofo said, should not allow authorities to get away with non performance because it cannot perform its watchdog role creditably if it is compromised.
Beyond the Event
Television stations seem to be too focused on covering events, newspapers are drowning in sensational headlines in order to sell and social media is increasingly noted for fake news.
This is why David Ampofo believes it is necessary for media organisations to adopt the practice of having specialised desks to pursue in-depth reports that highlight rot in society as well as expose real challenges affecting citizens.
“Have a special team whose job is to stick with a story and get to the bottom of it. The event is the trigger; if Journalists are invited to an AIDS conference, they should fill in the gap by doing a documentary on AIDS, Mr Ampofo stressed.
Beyond press conferences and events, Journalists must strive to get the real stories from those who matter. This will enable an in-depth analysis of Ghana’s socio-economic state, especially when it comes to holding government accountable in the delivery of its policies.
Published on 26 October 2017.