NEW YEAR HONOURS LIST (2)
By CAMERON DUODU
(Based on an article in the Daily Guide 04 January 2014)
Order Of The Braying Ass, No Class Division
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,
I belong to your Fraternity/Sorority. And I am aware that we often tell one another, rather ungrammatically that: “Dog don’t eat dog!”
But it is a false notion. For some newspapers deliberately slash their cover price, in order to force competitors to do the same and — go out of business.
As regards what journalists could be up to in competing amongst themselves, read – yiee, did I hear myself say read? – a novel called Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. Ladies and Gentlemen, pardon the impertinence, but when did any of you last read a novel?
Most Ghanaian newspapers of today can each be read in ten minutes dead. But I remember a time when the then Sunday Mirror, sister paper of the Daily Graphic, was edited by a person so literate that he sought out and serialised NOVELS!! Yes – both People of the City and Jagua Nana, by Cyprian Ekwensi, a writer who was not even a Ghanaian but a Nigerian, were serialised in the Sunday Mirror!
The inimitable E T Mensah was even inspired to write a song about that paper.
The Graphic had a Cinema Review section; the Sunday Mirror too ran a weekly article on the Radio, by a very perceptive writer who called himself “Radio Critic”. These features were, of course, added to by the columns of Carl Mutt (the late Henry Ofori) Moses Daquah, and others. Do our modern “editors” see the need to seek inspiration from the output of their illustrious predecessors at all? I wonder. There are treasures buried in the bound copies of their own newspapers, which are buried in their libraries — if the libraries continue to exist at all!
Listen, Ladies and Gentlemen, the first short story to be published in Ghana by our foremost novelist, Ayi Kwei Armah, was the winning entry in a (relatively lucrative) short story contest organised by the so-called “girlie magazine”, Drum. The story was called The Offal Kind. I remember it because – I won’t hide under the cloak of false modesty in this article, thank you very much – I was editor of Drum at the time. Although I was a prolific writer myself, I fought for and obtained a very good budget for “Contributions”. Today, when a paper becomes profitable, the first thing its administrators think about is bigger cars for their staff and other frivolities. Trying to instil literacy into the writers with courses and attachments abroad are things of the past.
Time was when editors looked at circulation figures regularly and challenged themselves to increase the figures, no matter how good they were. Today, even when your papers’ income comes mainly from advertising, you still count yourselves as “leading newspapers!” How droll!
Ladies and Gentlemen, I dare you to do some research and try to prove that we of the post-independence crop of journalists were not high-minded! You can’t because we were aspirational, even where we lacked the knowledge ourselves.
What do you guys fill your pages with these days, huh?
Endless reams of press releases and PR fluff.
Stodgy, self-serving rationalisations of why public expectations of good service or proficient manufacturing cannot be met.
Boring, illogical, irrelevant and waffling features, sometimes by “columnists” many of whom have nothing to say but write as if they have paid features editors to get their names into print. Self-aggrandisement at public expense. Did you read the disgraceful presentations full of lies that were made on behalf of Fortiz? Were you not ashamed that such disingenuous effusion could come out from the pens of “journalists” – i.e. members of our fraternity?
No topicality or relevance are to be found in today’s “news items” and features! (repeat ten times).
No internal logic in many articles! (repeat eight times).
No discernibly educative content!! (repeat six times).
Few items of a surprising nature, or information that is really new! (repeat four times).
Little or Nothing to entertain the reader and help improve his mood! (repeat twice)
Nothing that is really worth reading! (Just repeat that).
Worse, you don’t follow up any real news, even when you occasionally publish any such thing!
In fact, real news seems to be an awful bother to some of you.
Fancy trying to get our taciturn police force to divulge to you why we haven’t heard anything new about the prosecution of the people arrested in connection with the murder of 72-year-old Madam Amma Hemmah, who was burnt alive and killed at Tema at 10 a.m. on November 20, 2010, having been mistaken for a witch just because she entered the wrong house and made herself comfortable in somebody’s room!
How many articles have you published about dementia, or alzheimer’s, to alert the public to the fact that loss of memory in senior citizens is pretty common and does not necessarily indicate witchcraft on their part? When did you last feature the “witches’ camp” in Northern Ghana? Has trokosi disappeared from Ghana yet? When did you last shine the torch of publicity on it? Is galamsey a dead issue to you? Have you heard of “campaign journalism”? Or do you think of advertisements first before you dare to publish anything that can be considered controversial?
I ask you: what happened to the soldiers who assaulted your own staff journalists who were merely covering the parade marking the 56th anniversary of Ghana’s independence at Black Star Square in Accra on 6 March 2013? When the armed forces PR department lied to you, in solidarity with its soldiers, did you respond with equal solidarity, on behalf of your fellow journalists? Are you nit ashamed that soldiers can protect their own better than the so-called protectors of the public at large – the “journalists” of Ghana?
Furthermore, what has happened to the case involving the collapse of the Melcom shopping centre in Accra in November 2012? Some Ghanaians were killed. Tough, right?
What is your collective view of the rampant outbreaks of fire at markets, both in Accra and Kumasi? Ah, if the Government has got the reports but won’t publish them, what business is it of yours huh?
Do you know that in enlightened societies, you are more highly regarded and put above members of the Government, when it comes to ensuring that the public welfare is maintained at all times, the Government usually being the chief perpetrator – everywhere – of gratuitous malfeasance?
Have you heard of what the NSA in the United States and GCHQ in Britain have been doing – razing democratic rights fought for over centuries, to the ground with impunity? Suppose the media in those countries were like ours, would we ever have heard of the numerous official abuses of citizens’ privacy through the indiscriminate collection of “meta-data” by the NSA and GCHQ?
Did you do any independent investigation at all of the case in which a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer allegedly stabbed and killed a suspected robber at Wa in July 2012? Can you imagine what would happen to any Ghanaian – accredited diplomats included – who stabbed and killed an American citizen in the USA?
Did you know that according to an official cable disclosed by Wikileaks, the United Stares embassy in Accra applied to Washington to be given money to indoctrinate Ghanaian officialdom and the public, on genetically modified foods? Have you tried to find out whether the US Congress has ever passed a law that allows a US embassy to use public funds to act as an agent of private companies like Monsanto?
Listen, guys. Journalism in Ghana wasn’t always as lame as you’ve made it today, you know? In 1967, the National Liberation Council (NLC) Government, having booted out the Kwame Nkrumah Government which it rightly accused of dictatorship, found it conscionable to dismiss star editors of the state-owned press – Moses Danquah (The Ghanaian Times), John Dumoga (The Daily Graphic) and Henry Thompson (The Evening News) – for questioning the terms under which the Government had disposed of the State Pharmaceutical Corporation and handed it to an American company, Abbott Laboratories.
The Government of the NLC could not answer their arguments, so it sacked them! The ignoramus who headed the NLC at the time, Gen Joseph Ankrah, replied, when asked why the editors had been sacked, “He who pays the piper calls the tune!” He didn’t even know that it was the Ghanaian taxpayers who paid the piper, not him — or his Government of unelected rulers – who were in fact parasites who had inserted their hands into the Ghanaian exchequer.
The Government’s action led to a crisis for the NLC, thank God! The NLC’s own Commissioner of Information, the incomparable K G Osei Bonsu, resigned – the first and only time a Ghanaian Cabinet Minister had voluntarily resigned his post in defence of a principle – namely, freedom of expression! This was the crisis that undermined Gen Ankrah and paved the way for his replacement by the relatively more liberal Col. – later Lt-Gen — Akwasi Afrifa.
It was a time of comic developments. Having sacked Dumoga, the NLC tried to offer his job to yours truly, but tried to be clever in NOT telling yours truly that Dumoga had been sacked. It calculated that since yours truly had been publicly at loggerheads with Dumoga over press standards, he would jump at the chnce to take Dumoga’ s job! By accepting the job, he would thereby become the victim of a fait accompli but soften the blow for the NLC, as far as the public was concerned.
But purely on intuition, yours truly told Mr L K Apaloo, the Cabinet Secretary, – without ever being prompted — that if there was ever a conflict between the public interest and the Government interest, yours truly would be “on the side of the public interest!”
The offer was withdrawn forthwith! The very next day, however, the crisis broke out and yours truly became aware of the trick that had almost been played on him. Had he gladly accepted the job, how could he have lived later with the idea that he had replaced an editor who was sacked for merely writing what was in his mind? Thus did intuition save the integrity of yours truly!
Hahaha! But three years later, yours truly was again to be offered the editorship of the Daily Graphic. And guess what? Within ten mtonths, Fate decided to test yours trulyagain: he came up against the public interest versus Government interest conundrum again. He stood his ground and he was dismissed, after he got into “a conflict of interest” argument in which he plumbed for his principles against those of the Government that appointed him. He strongly opposed in the Daily Graphic, the idea that Ghana should join the ranks of African countries who would enter into a “dialogue” with the rulers of apartheid South Africa, on behalf of black South Africans! “If they want dialogue”, yours truly editorialised, “let them have it with their own blacks. For the blacks in independent African countries are not in any way superior to the blacks of South Africa!”, yours truly maintained.
Guys, please raise a glass not to yours truly, but to the equally doughty fighters in our ranks, who are no longer with us – to Moses Danquah. To John Dumoga. To Henry Thompson. To Tommy Thompson. To John Kugblenu. (Both the last two were brave advocates of press freedom in their aptly named Free Press. They died from the effects of harsh imprisonment by the PNDC Government of J J Rawlings, a man who, ironically, had once bitterly berated the Ghanaian media, for having allowed themselves to be “emasculated”!)
Guys, the journalists who were punished for speaking their minds, also had families, like yourselves, whom they needed to feed. But they put what they thought was right for their country over and above their personal interests. Above all, they took pains to inform themselves well of what was going on in their country and told their fellow countrymen about what they found out, and what they truly thought of it. Knowledge makes a person free, and indeed, free as a bird they mostly were. Unfettered by self-censorship imposed by greed, or cowardice, or both.
Most certainly, they were not ignorant and could speak the truth to power, without being blissfully unaware of the possible consequences. They did what they did, the possible consequences notwithstanding.
They were not the type of “journalist” to be found regularly on radio stations, braying extremely loudly like a hungry ass, day in day out. Making no sense. Spewing lies. Peddling illogicality. Mostly for money. And encouraged by producers of programmes to whom the more nonsense is spoken on a programme, the greater its success in drawing listeners! Listeners whom they never deign to encounter, unless they are agit-prop personnel deliberately financed to become serial callers to radio stations.
Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen of Press,
For allowing the sale of Merchant Bank to Fortiz to go through;
For conniving at the GYEEDA rip-off of public funds;
For pussyfooting over SUBAH;
For winking at the misapplication of the Media Development Fund and pretending that no money has been filched from the distribution of laptops to schools and journalists;
And for allowing yourselves to be fooled over the alleged migratory habits of nkomfem (guinea fowls);
I hereby award you the Order of the Braying Ass! No Class Division. Get some class, men!
Ladies and Gentlemen, you have my warmest congratulations.