Some 62 years ago Ghana gained her independence from British colonial rule becoming the first within the sub-Saharan Africa to chalk such feat. Great as Ghana has been in liberating herself it has records of checkered history, a nation that has experienced the good and the bad.
Ghana has come this far, perhaps not the best of heights though, but there are obvious developmental pointers. The stability of the democracy at least within the past 25 years is an enviable feat. Within the last 25 years, Ghana has seen the successful and peaceful transfer of political power from one party to the other. These and others are no doubt, have been possible by the massive contribution of the media. This is to say, Ghana’s democracy; economy, peace and unity as well as social development have come this far by riding on the wings of the media.
The media undoubtedly has played enormous role in propelling the nation into where it is today. Like the media around the globe, the Ghanaian media has been the reflection of society and also portrayed what and how society preforms.
This is because it has been the major means or medium through which information is shared among the citizenry. It has also provided the much-needed public sphere for national discourse, growth and development.
The media in Ghana has been in the forefront in national development even before independence. History has it that, the fist president of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, had pursued the agenda of the colonial masters by using the media to influence and whip up the interest and enthusiasm of the people to fight for the liberation of the country from colonialism.
Colonial Governors before Ghana’s independence, had established newspapers whiles radio was also introduced on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of King George V, the head of the British Empire for disseminating information to the people to persuade them to support their policies and programes.
Among other things, newspaper was also to provide information on Britain and the rest of the world to the expatriate merchants and civil servants in the then colony and at the same time, it also provided education, motivating to the populace in rural development activities, which gained much root in respect of winning the loyalty of the people and also to conform with the colonial system.
Just before Ghana’s independence, that is, in the heat of the struggle Dr. Nkrumah took a bold step to establish the Accra Evening News, which was primarily used for the objectives of the struggle for independence with its focus on “self-government now”, unleashing philosophical attacks against the colonial rule and demanding also the political rights for the populace.
The post-independence era saw Dr. Nkrumah establishing strong media institutions including the Ministry of Information, Ghana News Agency and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, for use as a propaganda tools for national unity and development. He also established the Ghana Institute of Journalism in 1959 for the training of journalists in the country, the first of its kind on the African continent.
He perceived media as a tool for the executive in gaining total authority and power of information and therefore became very much interested in the use of these institutions including his personal Guinea Press, Limited, which he established for ensuring influence through their uses.
The media in Ghana has been almost like what was seen at independence as mouthpiece of all succeeding governments until recently with very little improvements along the line.
The media in Ghana in its quest to execute its mandate in the country was faced with some fierce opposition and persecution. Perhaps the most difficult times for media to thrive in the country was during the ear of the Provisional National Defence Council
(PNDC) when some private media houses were forced to close down with their equipment seized. Those who wanted to be in business had no other option but to sing the songs of the government.
Nevertheless, in certain periods of history, Ghana enjoyed some favorable executive relationship. For example, The National Liberation Council (NLC) reintroduced newspapers in the country. The Busia’s Progress Party government also repealed the Newspaper Licensing Act while The Peoples’ National Party government of Dr Hilla Limann established an independent press council all to help enhance media activities in the country.
The true freedom and extensive vibrancy of the media really occurred when in May 1994 the forcible closure and seizure of Radio Eye, which raised so much concern around the globe, compelling the then government to have a second look at media freedom.
This paved the way for the flooding of radio stations in the country with the establishment of Joy FM in July 1995 as the first private radio station in the country.
Radio and Television since then have led the media onslaught against injustices, corruption, human rights and also the promotion of education, health and social development. It also ensured motivation entertainment and information of the citizenry as apart of its mandate. This has indeed enriched Ghana’s media terrain.
The fourth republic particular has recorded very healthy relationship between the media and the executive ensuring effective governance. It is during this period that Presidents of the nation have availed themselves to the entire nation, through the lenses of the media, thus exhibiting the genuine exposition of the hallmark of their governments, which are accountability, transparence, and responsiveness at the end of the first half of the first term of his presidency
This is one reason why the importance of the Ghanaian media in governance of the country cannot be under-estimated. In such a liberal democracy, the primary objective must and has been to continually lay bear government policies and programmes for scrutiny by providing the people with accurate and impartial information so that they can act on it accordingly.
The media in Ghana today has fought the fight against galamsey, corruption, putting checks on government and its officials and ensuring free and fair elections. It has engaged in economic and rural development as well as acting on matters of peace and security.
By and large the media have performed its function with distinct but obviously there is more room for improvement. Citizens perceived the media as a bane in the national development as it has to a large extent connived with the authority to cover wrongdoing in society.
The Ghanaian media today is so vibrant and acted as the voice of the people, a partner of the executive and a friend to the citizen for peaceful and prosperous nation.
Areas of unnecessary sensationalism, fake news strict professionalism and absolute adherence of the ethics of the profession as well as political communication must be seriously looked at and all errors corrected.
There is the urgent need, at this moment, to bring into sharp focus the role played by some pioneers in the Ghanaian media who went through severe harassments and in some cases brutalities and imprisonment as well as death to ensure the thriving of the Ghanaian media.
By Nana Sifa Twum