Ghanaian Journalists Selling Old Wine

Published on 10th January 2006

Throughout the year 2005, Ghanaian media, reeling from years of repression under military juntas and inadequacies, has been subjected to all kinds of criticisms by the government, public, private sector and ordinary people. While some of these criticisms may be true, half-truth or shallow, others; however, have hit home squarely, reflecting the Ghanaian struggle for progress.

Recently, headlines such as ‘Media to show restraint,’ ‘Media urged to play advocacy role to promote new malaria drug,’ ‘Journalists urged to be guided by principles of factual reporting,’ ‘Ghana News Agency should be strengthened,’ ‘Editor in court for deceiving a public officer,’ ‘Journalism and Politics in Ghana, A fatal mix for our democracy,’ ‘Journalists asked to uphold human rights,’ and  ‘The media, election 2008 and beyond,’ have graced Ghanaian journalism, putting journalists under public scrutiny  and citizens expecting, sometimes unreasonably, more from an overburdened journalism. Part of the Ghanaian journalism problems have come about because Ghanaian journalists, like other Ghanaian elites, are trained heavily in Western paradigms, philosophies or values, and less in Ghanaian values. In this sense, the public scrutiny of Ghanaian journalism is one of itself since journalism mirrors the intellectual state of any society.

All journalism practices are rooted in a society’s values/interests, struggles, histories and experiences. This collectively casts the journalistic philosophy of the society. Despite the universality of the core fundamental principles of journalism, the journalistic philosophies bring distinctions among the Canadian or British journalism from the Ghanaian, Sierra Leonean or Nigerian journalism.

According to Herbert Altschull and Edmund Lambeth in Four Theories of the Press, whether in authoritarian (as seen in North Korea), libertarian (as seen in Canada), social responsibility (as seen in USA) and the former Soviet Communist models (as seen in Cuba), these societies journalism philosophies are configured by their long-running struggles, values, experiences and histories, “as well as by the various developmental paths they want to pursue, despite the increasingly shrinking global arena.” So Canadian or North Korean journalism philosophies are a peek into knowing the way their systems say about their experiences, interests or values. These philosophies, also “provide the conceptual structure for critically measuring the media performance, whatever the nature of the cultural system in which a society’s media operate.” Thus, Ghanaian-values inadequacies in Ghanaian journalism reveal the difficulty of measuring Ghanaian values.

Even with independence from the colonialists and the hatching of “advancing journalism” by Third Worlders, who seek to mix western journalism models in the Ghanaian/African context, there is still lack of indigenous values, struggles, histories and experiences inputs. In this context, the dawn of Ghana’s democracy, the re-thinking of her elites as seen in the Asantehene (King of the Asante ethnic group), Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11, advocating appropriation of Ghanaian values with her colonial legacies, and the emerging awakening of Ghana’s values in her progress necessitates a shift in Ghanaian journalism paradigms from Eurocentric to Ghana-centric so as to ground Ghanaian journalism models in Ghanaian values, experiences, interests and histories.

When Ghanaians scrutinize their journalists for operating off track, off their values and call on them to be objective, work with merit or within their professional ethics, they are, in a way, saying, as Herman Shah would suggest in Mass Media in an Age of Mass Media Globalization that Ghanaian journalists should expand their prevailing philosophies in order to incorporate Ghanaian values, struggles, experiences, histories and interests. A new Ghanaian journalism philosophy, rooted in Ghanaian values, will not only help Ghanaian journalists operate with higher respectability, objectivity and understanding of Ghanaians problems but also help them question deeper some of the inhibiting values within their culture and appropriate the enabling aspects in their operations in the larger Ghanaian progress.

*All the quotes in this article are from African Journalism within the Ethos of the African Renaissance by Kofi Akosah-Sarpong (Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, 2001)


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