Friday, November 26, 2010

Ablakwa Raps radio presenters

Okudzeto Ablakwa (right) delivering his address. With him are, from left: Laari Bimi, Joe Baidoe-Ansah and Dr. Kuire

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By William Yaw Owusu

Friday November 26, 2010
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a Deputy Minister of Information has taken a swipe at some radio presenters particularly morning show hosts, describing them as “pirates on the airwaves.”

“They are not seen robbing huge merchandise or kidnapping for ransom. They are seen robbing the good people of Ghana of peace, unity, truth and national cohesion,” he said.

The Deputy Minister was participating in a roundtable discussion organized by the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) in Accra yesterday to scrutinize the state of media freedoms and free speech in the country.

The topic for discussion was “Media freedoms, free speech and responsible expression in a multi-party democracy” and it was tackled exhaustibly by two distinguished discussants in the persons of Dr. Vladimir Antwi-Danso and Professor K. Ansu Kyeremeh, all of the University of Ghana.

Mr. Okudzeto Ablakwa said even though the media are competing for news it was their responsibility to guard against utterances that have the tendency to disturb the peace of the nation.

The Deputy Information Minister noted “There seem to be lack of clarity about the frontiers of media freedoms and freedom of speech in this country. When issues of intolerance rear its head within our political parties then you hear about directives and guidelines but when one political party attacks another in the media we are all fine with it.”

He cited recent comments by Nana Darkwa, an NPP supporter who accused former President Jerry John Rawlings and one by Dr. Kwabena Adjei, National Chairman of NDC where he said there are many ways to kill a cat in reference to judges as two issues that were staunchly defended depending on the political divide that people belonged to saying “we should set parameters as to what would constitute responsible speech or irresponsible speech.”

He said the extent of damage and chaos that misguided statement can bring to should never downplayed and said it is becoming dangerous and reckless for the media to set agenda of regionalism.

When he took his turn Dr. Antwi-Danso who exhibited his lecturing skills said there was “hate propaganda, insipid lies, hatred” and “the creation of intolerance” being channeled through the media which should know better and called for media responsibility.

“As journalists, there is nothing wrong supporting a political party but you should not allow it to affect or influence your professional work. Go to Rwanda and see the handiwork of the media…it started as a result of writing what we want.”

Dr. Antwi-Danso said the media is exploiting the ‘gullibility’ of the Ghanaian public saying “institutions of state are cowed by media terrorism and the political landscape is littered with media landmine.”

“Dichotomization syndrome making every aspect of life to the extent that even crime, the bench and security have all been belted into NDC, NPP rubrics” adding that the political parties are all fighting over the process of development and it is the media that should shape the process.

“There should be limits to media freedom otherwise the social compact in the constitution makes no meaning.”

Prof. Ansu Kyeremeh appealed to the NCCE to constantly remind the media on its responsibilities towards the development and consolidation of the development and democracy.

He underscored the need for the NCCE to be given funds and resources adequately to live up to its constitutional mandate.

Kabral Blay-Amihere, Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC) said the commission was concerned about unethical and poor journalistic standards saying “we need journalists who will not be footnotes to the ambitions of politicians.”

Laari Bimi, NCCE Chairman said the media and judiciary are two institutions that must be supported to fearlessly protect the current democratic dispensation.
He said “there is so much partisanship in the press. The press is sharply divided and that is very dangerous for young democracy as ours.”

Dr. Kuire of the Attorney General’s Department who chaired the discussion said even though the media landscape was vibrant, there are aberrations.

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