Shifting Media Focus From Partisan Politics To National Dev’t



affail_monney12The glamorously celebrated media awards organised at the banquet hall of the State House by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) is bringing in its trail a healthy public discourse on how to enhance the role of media in national development.

Over the years, Ghanaian media has showed itself to be one of the best in Africa if not across the world. This is especially because of its strong advocacy role in the political transition that gave birth to the current globally acclaimed democratic dispensation in our country.

For this reason, the Media has gained for itself both the right and responsibility to ensure that the tooted democracy in Ghana translates into tangible development in the practical well being of all Ghanaians.

Democracy is a means to development, not an end in itself. There is an encouraging sign that our media men and women can rise to the occasion when need be. During the period of the Supreme Court’s hearing and judgment on the election petition, the media was challenged to help keep the peace rather than publicising the posture of combat assumed by politicians and their parties.

Media delivered on their promise. The National Media Commission (NMC) and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) worked with the National Peace Council (NPC) and other groups towards the successful outcome we all are enjoying now and seem to have even taken for granted.

CONVERGENCE

We need to improve the utility of our reaffirmed peacefulness. The addresses delivered by key speakers at the GJA Awards ceremony, indicate significant convergence of concerns about the need for journalists to more efficiently utilise the opportunities, as compared to other countries, of press freedom and civil liberties so entrenched in our constitutional principles and democratic practices.

The Chief Justice Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, the Minister of Information and Media Relations Mr Mahama Ayariga, Ambassador Kabral Blay-Amihere, Chairman of the National Media Commission and the President of the Ghana Journalists Association Mr Affail Monney all expressed a strong desire to see Ghanaian media lift up their game and, as it were, lead the country across what looks like a sludge of partisan politics.

Indeed, the concern that our media is so given to politics has been raised numerous times by various observers within and without. Now the momentum seems to have reached a crescendo, and the media must act as soon as possible to conserve the trust reposed in them .

In this regard, recalling that on the morning of the Supreme Court’s judgment the GJA published a communiqué containing an intention to transform media reportage from the current focus on politics to a focus on practical development comes in handy.
This intention is critical to the measurement of media performance and the value of leadership across the media landscape today.

It shows that leaders in media have their ears on the ground and their eyes on the ball. Now, it is time to take the chance.
The nation and its leaders are in great expectation of this paradigm move. Good will is on your side, Journalists, go for the goal; move the nation over the bar of partisan politics unto the higher pedestal of development focus.

In doing this, it is important to understand that even though politics may be part of national development, partisan politics should not be allowed to mask the core issues that confront us as a nation. It is the responsibility of media professionals to properly grow and manage their programme and story contents in a manner that most effectively prevents political parties and their patrons from opportunistic participation.

Acknowledging that political parties and their affiliates are a critical part of the development discourse also means that Media professionals should have the capacity to detect and avoid the subtlety by which politicians use media platforms to pursue their political agenda.

At the moment, grave developmental issues confront our country: agitations on the labour front, underperformance of our education and health sectors, an agricultural sector that is struggling and a manufacturing sector that is virtually dead. These challenges have been around since independence while governments come and go. We should not expect a problem-free economy, but we cannot settle for mediocrity. Together as a people we can, and should, transform our country.

The responsibility of media, as the fourth estate of the realm, is to put the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary on their toes. Our national budgets have always had to be heavily subsidised externally, our natural resources have served mostly as raw materials in our hands, our youthful population is more of a liability than an asset, our institutions are failing and our debts keep climbing. But all these can change.

They can change as much as we bring objective healthy pressure on our leaders. When we build and keep a consistent, fair and non-partisan interrogation on the socio-economic issues that face our national, our leaders will be motivated, perhaps uncomfortably, to work harder.

At the next sitting of Parliament, the budget for next year will be presented. The Media must be in readiness to scrutinize the proposals therein made, not as if they were prompted by the political opposition but as well informed professionals merely doing their duty. They may have lost the opportunity of leading civil society to monitor and evaluate budget delivery in past years, but here is another chance they must not disappoint.

The theme for the GJA Awards, “Promoting Healthy Partisanship and Fruitful Partnership in Governance: The Role of the Media”, is a good-enough indication that the media rightly appreciates diversity is political opinion and behavior.

Promoting healthy partisanship means that political parties would not be set up to antagonize each other on media platforms. Rather, media content on partisan issues will be competently developed and skillfully packaged in a manner that efficiently presents the significant differences in the approaches proposed by the various parties to solve national problems. Fruitful partnership includes the media serving as a catalyst to strengthen the common grounds that political parties have on issues of national interest.

This means that the capacity of Media should be significantly improved. Presently there is big gap in the ability of Media to meet this challenge. In many cases the analytical prowess of many of our journalists is inconsistent with their assertiveness. This is why the GJA’s leadership must be supported to embark on an extensive capacity building programme for all journalists.

So here we are again at another point in national history when the goodwill of our people beckons a particular category of its leaders to rise and shine as our politicians did to bring us political freedom. It is hoped that our media leaders will recognise that this is their moment to shine again. This is that time location on the path our burgeoning democracy we have all been hoping for to see. That time when true democracy is evidenced by patent development. The grounds seem ready. Let’s strike while the iron is hot. By E. Kwame Mensah

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