Ghana is always touted as the shining example of democracy and good governance in the whole African continent. However, anything that would derail its democratic credentials must be fiercely resisted. That is why; I view the level of intolerance graduating into our body politics as insults and intemperate language very worrying and very disturbing.

My worry stems from the fact that, in less than a year to go to the polls, Ghana would become the cynosure of all eyes, both locally and internationally, so if care is not taken to nip the canker in the bud it would not augur for peace and unity of our country. So it behoves each and every Ghanaian to ensure that the December elections are free, fair and transparent so that the end of the day we can once again beat our chest out in peace but not in pieces.

On the other hand, I am deeply disturbed of the certain current developments in the media front when journalists decide to turn their pen unto themselves, tearing each other apart. For, a house divided by itself can not stand. It is a fact that journalists by their very training and practice are on the side of the public, and therefore, do not operate in isolation. This fact most often has been misconstrued by even media practitioners themselves. As we all know, Journalists hold the responsibility of informing the public as well as keeping a watchful eye on the public office holders and among other civil duties.

That is why; the framers of 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution guaranteed individual rights including press freedom that make room for divergent opinions and dissenting views, bearing in mind that we all can not think alike when it comes to the governance of the state. We must not lose sight of the fact that individual rights are embedded in the freedom of media. And that explains why if the press is muzzled, then it means that rights of people are curtailed and society as a whole can not make any meaning strides.

In other words, we must agree to disagree on issues confronting the country, and therein lies the beauty of democracy. It must be stressed, however, that in our quest to build a better society our common enemies are not those who hold views different from ours but diseases, poverty, mal-nutrition, underdevelopment, squalor and illiteracy that affect the life of ordinary Ghanaian.

When people disagree with the president on his policies and programmes, which of course are their constitutional rights to do so, his followers go to the extent of vilifying, maligning and condemning them for daring to hold contrary view on issues of national importance. Can we all think alike? Let me cite a couple of the most finest journalists of all time, Mr. Boadu Yaw Ayeboahfo and Mr.kofi Akordor, both of The Graphic Communications Group, who have been subjected to vile campaign of media bashing for having the effrontery to air their opinions on the governance of the country by telling the government to fulfill its 2008 manifesto promises to Ghanaians.

Writing in his column, thinking loud, entitled ?Better Ghana—my assessment? published in the Daily Graphic of December 28, 2012; Mr. Yaw-Ayeboahfo presented in an unbiased and independent manner the feelings of Ghanaians about the performance of the NDC government. That is his only crime! Not only certain Afrokuma Fofie from Ashtown, Kumasi but also his own colleague, A.B.A Fuseini, questioned his sense of political neutrality on some of issues he raised in his write-up, even to extent of attacking his person, professional competence and principles.

As if that is not enough, Mr. Kofi Akordor was not spared when he also wrote in his column, from my rooftop, entitled ?vain promises, fresh dreams?(Daily Graphic, Tuesday, January 3,2012)that politicians must be alive to their responsibilities by fulfilling the electoral promises and pledges. This seemed not to have gone down well with one Efo Kofi Mawunyo who, turning his blind eyes to salient points raised in the piece, mercilessly took Mr. Akordor to the cleaners, for opening his mouth too wide to tell the truth(see 09/01/2012 myjoyonline.com).

As journalists and columnists at that, they do not hold allegiance to the NDC government but the good people of this country to keep the government on its toes. Instead of their constructive criticisms being taken in good faith, they are seen as opposition elements that are bent on painting the governing party in a bad light. Far from that! What they have said and written their columns or vice versa, in fact, represents views of many Ghanaians who may not the opportunity to ventilate their concerns. Besides, it is a duty bound of these respected journalists to say it as it is. They can not call a sheep a cow or vice versa. A cow is a cow, no matter how it is decorated (thanks to Baba Jamal). Naturally, one may differ from their points of view but they are entitled to their opinions and no one can take away from them. Period!

A lot of concerns have been expressed and are still being expressed by well meaning Ghanaians about the culture of political insults in the national discourse. Yet, it appears to have gone beyond redemption! The more people speak against the canker, the more politicians spew out insults against their vowed opponents. It does not make sense using vulgar language to drive a point home. It can be done in a civilized manner without resorting to name-calling or insults. Politics can be carried out in an atmosphere of tolerance to each other’s views and beliefs.

Regrettably, those who should know better and discourage the practice are rather looking on gleefully while the youth have a field day?all in the name of partisan party. Insults here, insults there and insults everywhere. Someone says the buck should stop at the doorstep of journalists simply because they give the platform to politicians to spew flout language against opponents. That is why; I was truly disappointed when veteran journalist and respected electoral pollster, Mr. Ben Ephson, made a statement to the extent that should a politician have a diarrhea of insults, it must be published because the public have the right to know. I think the professional code of ethics enjoins journalists to use their discretion to publish or not publish, taking into consideration sensibilities of the general public.

Many a senior journalist treats GJA’s code of ethics with contempt it deserves and feels ?untouchable? by the association charged with the responsibility to ensure high journalistic standards of the profession in the country. In the past, there have instances where so-called senior journalists have declined to honour the numerous invitations of the association to appear before its ethics committee to answer complaints of journalistic infractions.

Interestingly, the same can not be said of Mr. Boadu-Ayeboafoh and Mr. Kofi Akordor who, by many years of their professional competence and practice, have distinguished themselves creditably well and earned respect of many young practicing journalists who see them as role models.

Throughout the history of journalism, many journalists and reporters have been lost, maimed and incarcerated for the noble profession; simply because, they do their job by defending the truth. Quietly recently, a prominent journalist was murdered in Somalia because of what is believed to be his role in reporting on politics and corruption cases. According to Reporters Without Borders, Somalia is the deadliest country in Africa for media personnel, and Mogadishu ranked as one of the world’s most-dangerous places for journalists in 2011.Even though these senseless and dastardly killings of press people can not happen in this country, we have at least a history to guide us.

They should not fear for what they stand for—-truth—-though a lot of dissenting voices may roar up against them. Ideas expressed in their respective columns represent the views of the larger society, which gravitates towards the truth in the country. Their inspiring writings have helped impact on our society and remained the authoritative pillar of the Ghanaian journalism. Anybody who is fighting them for defending the voiceless in our society is fighting a losing battle.

After the death of journalistic martyrs of our time, including Tommy Thompson, John Klugbenu and others, journalism did not die but has continued to flourish up to date. The trees of Mr. Boadu-Ayeboafoh and Mr. Kofi Akordor may be mowed down, but their roots may surely spring up in thousand-fold. Let them take consolation in the words of Albert Einstein; “Only a life lived for others is worth living.”

By: George Oko Mensah.

 

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