Yet again, the nation has witnessed an encounter with the President in a remarkable meet the press session. This staple of our political system, started by the Kufuor administration continues to enjoy the admiration of both the political class and the citizenry, deepening the country’s democratic credentials in the geopolitical space. There are some who are of the opinion that six months into the presidency is too short for this engagement. One can say without equivocation that, July 18 exercise was needed to understand the broad vision of the president on the direction of the State six months into his administration. This is because quite a lot of things have happened and were talked about within the last six months, some of which were clear to the people and others not so clear that the people needed clarity, and direction from the president.
To adapt the good old cliché, six months is quite a long time in politics. The question is how useful was the exercise? In answering this question, it is important to recap at least three critical issues that needed clarity from the president. The first had to do with the China money. A clarification as to what government means by saying “it is not a loan but a joint venture”? The Second issue is, is Atiwaa forest the subject of the Ghana-China agreement on the so called joint venture money and the bauxite? Last but not least is galamsey. A major issue that has engulfed this nation, and the fight of which has probably become the “poster boy” headlining the six month presidency of Nana Addo.
There is no doubt that it is the burning desire of most nationals to know from the president how many galamsey sites, in terms of land size has the nation been able to clear off the illegal miners? What is the extent of preparation, if any, towards reclamation of galamsey areas? Instead, what the country had was a mixed bag of about 40 percent quality, 20 percent not so fantastic and a final 40 percent of over the bar questioning. This is not to run down the media and our hardworking journalists.
Ghana, undoubtedly, has one of the finest and most liberal media environments in Sub–Saharan Africa. According to the literature, the media have had to adapt to several political changes and have now become more stable, plural and freer since the 1990s. This is because the 1992 constitution makes provisions for media freedom and plurality and also insulates the state owned media from any form of interference from any quarters. In fact, the renewal of the Ghanaian mass media culture, experts say, has become an integral and indispensable part of the process of democratisation. It is also general knowledge that the Ghanaian media have generally been influential in safeguarding the country's democratic principles by playing critical roles in both the historical and socio-political development of the political system.
However, there has been an emergence, in the last few years, of a problem in public sphere, co-produced and managed by the media, predominantly. In highlighting this problem, it is imperative to refer to Dr. James Abugre, an authority in political communication and the media space in Ghana, who notes that communication helps to explain reasons, methods and ideas of corporate administrators and political leaders to their audiences. Political communications seek to achieve the latter through the mass media, predominantly.
Unfortunately, this process, which is the function of the media, has largely been contaminated in many ways in Ghana, including uncritical, selective and propagandist observation and reporting. In the more recent years, experts, including Abugre, have noted, that greater part of the Ghanaian media have sought to support and project the voices of the political system, becoming opportune witnesses, playing mischief and propaganda rather than educating and informing the citizens and being critical of the political system through fair and neutral ways.
Consequently, the Ghanaian media have greatly succeeded in propping the political class. The issue is glaring to many, especially those who have the authority to talk about it and to correct it. Yet, many are those who would choose to remain silent. It is the hope of many that this trend is reversed. To a large extent, that should begin by sorting out media ownership.
BY DR. KOBBY MENSAH, LECTURER UNIVERSITY OF GHANA BUSINESS SCHOOL AND POLITICAL MARKETING EXPERT.