Monday, June 13, 2011

Ghanaian media doing a poor job – GTUC vice president

Ghanaian media practitioners have been challenged to see their roles in new lights; not merely as reflections or mirrors of the society, but as the powerful and desirable tools to drive the nation's development and engineer improved living standards for its people.

If national development and the charge to pressurise leadership to be accountable to the citizenry remained cardinal in the core functions of the media, then they have not done enough because very little has been achieved in these respects.

Dr. Robert Awuah Baffour, Vice President of the 
Ghana Telecom University Collegewho gave the admonition, told participants at a symposium to mark the 10th anniversary of Penplusbytes, that if the status quo is nothing to write home about today, it cannot be expected to serve the nation any better in the future.

Speaking on The Promising future of new media technologies in Africa, Dr. Awuah Baffour said the media cannot afford to shirk its primary responsibility of serving as the mouthpiece of the voiceless and galvanizing the populace into desirable development.

"I don't think the media is doing a good job… Even though we have seen a change in our media platforms, I don't think the media is doing a good job... If you live in Achimota area and you have to drive from somewhere in Tesano going towards Ofankor, no country will allow such nonsense to go on, no country, except Ghana…", he pointed out, in reference to the snail-paced Achimota – Ofankor road reconstruction project that has seen a number of years-in-progress and the danger it exposes commuters to.

He also recalled an incident just last Friday when a DCE he chose not to name, angrily dropped a call while engaged in a discourse live on a radio programme, saying this cannot and must not happen in any sane society. 

Dr. Awuah Baffuor said ideally the media should be on the case of the contractor on the road project as well as the government appointee until they are given the boot, instead, he will not be surprised to hear that this snobbish DCE keeps his job for years to come because that is the society Ghanaians, supported by the media, have decided to build themselves; a nation that rewards insults and nonsense.

"Right now our leaders, they are so happy when they insult people on national TV, when they insult people on radio, when they write bogus articles and blast people. The president of our nation is being insulted at various corners, all the way to even his personal life, even his sexual life people are talking about it. How can a nation think like that? And this is in the media, because now people can call from wherever they are because some of these new media tools like a basic cell phone can allow them to hide under a little corner of a tree and talk nonsense, and we sit down on our radio stations and allow such conversations to go on. 

"So new media or old media, I think it is on the media people to make sure that proper decorum is done, we do the right thing. I know here if you want to become a deputy minister or you want to be a minister in the next administration whether it's going to be in NDC or NPP or CPP or whatever, you need to start blasting people day-in-day-out… That is the kind of system we have in Ghana. I think it's a shame. The media can control this."

He reiterated that leadership in the country and on the continent is not doing much for the people and that the media should stand up and refocus development.

"This country, this continent Africa is not working. Do you think this continent is working? If Africa is a project that started 20/40 years ago, today if you evaluate that project all you can say is the project did what, failed!", he said, his voice reinforced by the concurring voices of his listeners. "So let's forward it to 40 years from now, what do we want to measure? Are we going to say that our kids will say, 'well dad didn't do his job and therefore the project that he started also failed'? No! So we need to move on and change," instead of helping to build a nation that "rewards nonsense".

Dr. Awuah Baffuor said new media platforms, with their interactivity and synchronous ability, have so much potential to better the lot of society and it behoved industry players to employ them to the good of society.

"There are several areas in the health industry that media too can help. Right now if you go back to Kenya, Eastern Africa, Central Africa they are using all kinds of gadgets to help people with their medication, that is new media. You can report on issues new media. If you go to 
Youtube and say oh, there is an epidemic here, people be aware – that is new media - so in terms of the health industry, it is evolving and we in Africa should make sure we take advantage of that. There are several areas in the classroom environment where e-media is happening. In my school that is what we do. Indira Gandhi National Open University
 has a student population of three million, about the size (population) of Accra. Can you imagine every single person in Accra here goes to one school? And they have less than 500 lecturers, how can that happen?...It's online, that is new media for education. Here our mindset and some of the people especially the old folk believe that online education is bad, distance education is bad. That is the same mindset that has killed this country. We need to begin to move forward. If Indira Gandhi can have three million people trained online, Ghana cannot afford to have only three or four percent of our people have access to tertiary education. How can you develop a nation if only four or five percent of the people in the country can go to the university or our polytechnics, how can you move forward? How?."

10 years of PenPlusBytes

The symposium under the general theme of "New Media in Africa – Past, Present and Future", also discussed topics like "New media tools and their contribution towards Africa's development in the 21st century", and the "Evolution of new media technologies in Africa. 

Dr. Kwabena Riverson, Board Chairman of PenPlusBytes, observed that from its early beginnings ten years ago as just an online training institution, Penplusbytes has assumed a world renowned African organization very much interested in advocating the effective use ICTs in newsrooms and advancing the course of journalism.

He said the organization has offered learning opportunities and scholarships for media practitioners, coaching and mentoring of journalists and media organizations in key areas of journalism especially ICT Journalism and providing expert consultancy to Governmental institutions and media houses on online security and other ICT matters.

Dr. Kwabena Riverson also noted a number of key studies, capacity building programmes and projects he said Penplusbytes has successfully conducted, including "the institution's flagship and immensely successful 
African Elections Project," inaugurated in 2008 and has since covered elections in 10 African countries - Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritania, Namibia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Niger, Botswana and Togo. [You can read a pdf version of Dr. Riverson's address here].
Dr Kwabena Riverson

"The ground breaking African Elections Project has enhanced the ability of journalists, citizen journalists and the news media to provide more timely and relevant elections information and knowledge and while at the same time monitoring of specific and important aspects of governance," he said. 

The symposium marked the beginning of Penplusbytes' year-long celebration. Other activities lined up for the anniversary include a New Media boot camp for lecturers and budding journalists, a Pan-African anniversary essay competition for journalists in Africa, specialized training packages for media houses, fun games, research into 10 years of ICT journalism and an anniversary lecture.

Story by Isaac Yeboah/

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