President John Mahama has expressed worry over what he calls the control of Ghana’s media by a cabal who are blocking his message of transformation. In an interview with the Ovation Magazine, the President said and I quote "it is populism, a certain group has taken control of the media in Ghana and it makes it difficult for people to discern the truth" unquote. This comment from the President raises a number of issues. It is interesting how this could happen in a pluralistic media landscape as we have in Ghana. As at March last year, the National Communications Authority licensed 390 radio stations. Out of this number, 309 were operational. There are quite a good number of television stations and countless number of newspapers circulating in the country. The case can be made that not all these media organisations are sympathetic to the President or against him. There are well known media houses which are aligned to the NDC, both in opposition and in government. These media organisations have over the years given a fair coverage to the president, his party and government. It is not exactly clear how any cabal can prevent these media houses from showcasing the good works of the President.
Perhaps, the problem arises from the strategy which some of these pro government media houses have adopted. The difficulty as asserted by the President could be the boomerang effect of the practice where these media houses devote much time and space attacking the competence of the opposition, instead of directing their energies at projecting the government. This should be a wakeup call to all that you cannot project yourself by pulling down your opponent. The onus thus rests on those media houses that are openly affiliated to the NDC to tout the achievements of the government and drum home the transformational agenda. In any case, the President cannot genuinely expect every media house to sing his praises. By all means some will be critical of his administration. On a scale of balance, the president has an upper hand over all other candidates when it comes to media accessibility. In addition to the friendly private media, the President, by constitutional provisions, has an unfettered access to all state media. Indeed, the President has been making good use of this provision which gives him unrestricted access to all state media anytime he so desires. This is the President, who has had the most media engagements in recent times.
He has been interviewed on all GBC regional FM stations this year. He used each occasion to propagate his good deeds and justify why he should be retained in office. Again, the President and his vice have permanent reporters attached to them and all their activities are brought to the limelight. The President's comment could however be viewed from another premise. The question can be asked, what kind of publicity is being given to the President and his administration? Any observer can see clearly a deliberate effort on the part of some media houses to focus on the failures and challenges of this government, and in the process, bury its good deeds. That is why the President's allegation that some people twist and distort the facts is somehow meritorious.
This is manifested in a situation, for instance, where media organisations will not report on the number of Community Day Senior High Schools that have been completed but rather focus on the inability of the government to deliver the 200 as promised. The media will not report on the stability that has been brought to the power sector but rather blow out occasional outages. They will not report on the positive outlook of the economy but rather dwell on the temporary challenges. One cannot fault such media houses because it is a matter of choice. The sad fact is that the situation is worsened by the negative attitude of some of the President's appointees, especially ministers and their deputies to the media. It is disgusting the trouble journalists go through getting these functionaries to comment on issues. Most of these appointees hardly pick their calls, return calls or respond to messages from journalists. Is it not baffling that, ministers or deputy ministers will sidestep a professional and credible media organisation like GBC and rather go to a sensational private media house which will even end up twisting the issues?
So if there is any real cabal, the president should be looking at his own appointees who are letting him down by their refusal to take advantage of opportunities provided by the media, especially the state owned GBC to showcase the achievements of the government.
BY BUBU KLINOGO, A JOURNALIST