What Sort Of Journalism Is Being Practised In Ghana Today?

People read newspapers reporting the death of Ghana's President John Atta Mills on Tuesday, in the capital AccraIapplaud the BBC TV programme, Panorama, for unmasking a journalist called Mazher Mahmood, who used to disguise himself as a rich Sheikh and entrap people of all sorts, especially celebrities, into making silly statements or taking drugs, so that he could “expose” them in his newspaper, the now dead News of The World.

For if journalists don’t criticise other journalists, who will bring erring journalists to book and protect the public in this media age? We are supposed to be the eyes and ears of the world. And if we don’t approach that job with honesty and dedication, we let the whole world down.

By keeping quiet over Government misdeeds, especially as regards corruption, Ghanaian journalists collude in getting the corrupt members of the Government to take away from the public purse, money that could have been used to build more health posts or equip existing ones better; money that could have been used to provide toilets in our schools; and money that could have turned the Accra-Kumasi road into a proper and safe motorway, that not only gave us a speedy connection between our two largest cities but also, changed the road from a death-trap into one on which it would be a pleasure to drive.

We also need our money from revenue properly used, so that our water taps can ALWAYS deliver water; not forgetting electricity that never “dum’s” (‘quenches’) once it has been switched on!

If journalists become mumu (dumb) and don’t try to expose evil things in our society and some mad man wielding a gun gets up one morning and tries to capitalise on our wretchedness to make life better for himself and his family, we cannot escape blame.

I wonder: why have our media stopped publicising the Woyome case?

Had they become tired of the cross-examination of Woyome? After a long silence about the case, all I heard was that the prosecution had ended the cross-examination. Yet this was the sort of case which opened the doors to show us how corruption works from the inside.

Surely, the public would have been interested in knowing about — as near-verbatim as possible — every aspect of the scam?

On 12 November 2014, the Parliament of Ghana deferred consideration of a piece of legislation known as the Plant Breeder’s Bill. Many public-spirited organisa-tions had agitated against this Bill, because it is inimical to the interests of the farmers of this country. If it is passed, some idiot from some foreign land could come and tell us that he had “invented” a variety of banana, plantain, yam, cassava or cocoyam that had been genetically modified to give better yields than what we had been subsisting on since our ancestors settled in Ghana.

The foreigner and his Ghanaian collaborators could throw dust into our eyes by saying that he was only interested in crops like maize, or rice, or sesame that are capable of being used both as food and industrial inputs.

But the thing about genetically modified plants is this: some are engineered in such a way that they are only fit for consumption, and cannot be used for replanting in later seasons.

Imagine planting a type of plantain which you could not replant in the next season by using its mccdewa (planting stem) or cocoyam that could not produce mankani-ni [cocoyam ‘mother’] for planting! Or producing only bankyedua (cassava stick) that was sterile.

If this happened, a farmer would have to go back to the person who held the “breeder’s rights” of the particular plant to buy “seeds” of the plant that could be re-grown. Year after year. Suppose a farmer did not have money to buy new “seeds” to plant?

The owner of the “rights” to the plants might be generous enough to sell them cheaply, or even give them away. But suppose the “rights” passed into the hands of an obnoxious company after a takeover?

The worst part of it is that wherever genetically modified plants are grown, they can pollinate similar, natural plants and turn them too into sterile plants (as far as replanting is concerned.) And this could happen even to a farmer who detested GM crops but whose land happened merely to be near that of one who used GM plants.

When the notorious American company, MONSANTO, tried to introduce GM-rice into India, the Indian farmers detected what was going on and angrily burnt down all fields planted with Monsanto GM crops! Monsanto has been seeking new areas of operation ever since and Ghana has obviously been chosen as one.

Fortunately for us, civic organisations here have managed to obtain good information about the objectives the Plant Breeder’s Bill seeks to achieve and have made a great deal of useful noise about the Bill. So on 12 November 2014, our Parliament “deferred” consideration of it.

Yet, do you know that this major victory of the Ghanaian civic society has been reported only by one radio station, as far as I can tell from the Internet? A Google Search showed no mention of the Bill’s deferment on the website of either the Daily Graphic, The Ghanaian Times, or Radio Ghana — to say nothing of The Ghana News Agency.

These news organs are financed by you and me to serve the public interest. But I have not seen them publishing this important news, or writing editorials about it to encourage Parliament to do the right thing. If they have published the news and it’s not on the Internet, it is their own fault. They have no excuse for not taking seriously enough, the Internet which is fast taking over from the traditional media.

Certainly, that Bill must never be passed into law.

By Cameron Duodu
www.cameronduodu.com

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