Thursday, June 18, 2009

Media Foundation for West Africa launches Media Improvement project

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), on Wednesday launched a Media Improvement Project aimed at improving the capacity of journalists and media organizations to attain excellence. The Ghana Media Standards Improvement Project, which would be run with a 12 million-dollar Danish sponsorship on a pilot basis over a two-year period, would target eight rural radio stations and four newspapers nationwide, who would be selected based on an assessment of capacity and commitment to professional journalistic principles. Professor Kwame Karikari, Executive Director, MFWA, said the current fall in journalistic standards in the country was very worrying and dangerous for any thriving democracy.

He mentioned compromises of basic journalistic ethics and moral standards of some journalists and the limitation in the coverage of developmental issues, giving too much attention to politics, entertainment and sports alone as some of the major challenges to journalism in the country.

Prof. Karikari said the project among other objectives was to initiate and develop a culture of investigative and analytical journalism in Ghana, conduct research to assess public attitude to and perceptions of the Ghanaian media, undertake training to improve standards as well as training to support the media's capacity for sustainability in a difficult market environment.

He said the project was expected at the end to provide a comprehensive assessment of the media's performance as far as public readership and listenership were concerned to provide media managers with an index of the public's attitudes and perceptions for their operations.

Prof. Karikai said it would also provide a profile of the professional capacity of both journalists and media professionals, which would provide data usable as a guide to media managers and media trainers in overall capacity development policy and further improve newspaper layouts and packaging, as well as improvement in rural radio broadcasting and management. He said the Project would be implemented by a three-member Project Coordinating Committee made up of the MFWA, the GJA and an independent media trainer with an office located in the MFWA premises in Accra. It would be coordinated by Mrs Adjoa Yeboah-Afari, Chairperson of the Editor's Forum, Ghana, and supervised by the MFWA.

He said the unique role of the media in the promotion of democratic rule and democratic culture placed on it expectations and responsibilities for standards of performances that responded to the highest ideals of enlightenment and professionalism. Ms Yeboah-Afari pointed out that in spite of the numerous cases that made press freedom advocacy sound hollow to many, there were a few media organizations whose high professional standards compared to what was seen anywhere in the world.

Mr Ransford Tetteh, President, GJA, expressed appreciation to the MFWA and the Danish government for the support, saying constant media review was crucial to prevent gross misconduct and abuse of mandate, and to promote objectivity and a sense of responsibility of practitioners. He said the GJA would not relent in its efforts in ensuring high professional standards for journalists and media organizations and said an award for the best rural radio broadcasting would now be factored into the GJA's Awards ceremony.

Mr Tetteh said currently, the media needed a lot of in-house training as well as external skill development assistance to become innovative and live up to expectation.

He said the project would tap into the rich knowledge of both retired and working journalists and broadcasters as well as international practitioners to provide enhanced capacity for trainees. He referred journalists to the GJA Code of Ethics, saying strict adherence to the code would prevent most of the mistakes that journalists and media organizations often made. Mr Stig Barlyng, Danish Ambassador to Ghana, reaffirmed his country's commitment towards Ghana's development. He explained that development of investigative and analytical journalistic standards in the print media and rural radio stations would be done through capacity building, formalised training and on the job coaching to selected newspapers and rural radio stations. He said it was hoped that the support would enable the media to play its watchdog role more effectively and increase transparency through enhanced professional reporting.

Mr Paul Adu-Gyemfi, Chairman, National Media Commission (NMC), thanked the Government of Denmark for the continuous support to media development in Ghana and gave the assurance that the Commission would support the project to ensure the achievement of its objectives.

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