Oil and gas reports in Ghanaian newspapers increased by 100% in the first quarter of this year, compared to same period last year. This is contained in a research undertaken in the Ghanaian media by Penplusbytes under their project, "Empowering the media to play an active role over oil and gas revenue and resources" in Ghana. Three newspapers were studied for this report namely state owned Ghanaian Times, Daily Graphic and privately owned Daily Guide. The report also saw an increase in features from zero last year to five this year. 26 stories were reported in the first quarter of last year while 52 were reported in the first quarter of this year. However, the report showed the Ghanaian media is not generating adequate oil and gas content and it is over-reliant on outside sources for media content.
Dr. Doris Dartey who led the research expressed worry that even though the increase was impressive, they were more of quantity than quality. “The nature of the oil and gas industry in particular and of the extractive industries in general is such that the media must necessarily set out on its own and with determination and consistency, initiate and investigate issues, and bring them to the attention of the citizenry.” She was also worried about “spoon feeding journalism”. “The media’s reliance on maintaining a passive posture by being at the receiving end of packaged information from civil society, governmental and oil and gas industry sources amounts to spoon-feeding”. The report also indicated that, with the exception of some CSO content that alerts readers of goings-on in the oil and gas sector, the media did not generate and, publish investigative content.Content that is generated through such passivity cannot be as critical and questioning as is needed in the oil and gas industry, with its characteristic potential for corruption and mismanagement.
The report also indicated that most of the reporters did not do follow up stories on the reports. The report recommended more training for journalists to get themselves abreast with the trends and keep the people informed. President of Penplusbytes, Kwami Ahiabenu II encouraged the media to engage civil society to get more involved in the oil and gas sector. “I would encourage CSO actors, who are experts in the oil and gas industry and has it as their main focus, endeavour to write feature articles for publication in our newspapers instead of only releasing information through media briefings,”
Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization established in 2001 that seeks to empower the media through the use of Information and Communications Technology to advance better journalism in the coverage of governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and mining, oil and gas sectors. The reporting oil and gas project by Penplusbytes begun in 2007 and has trained journalists from Ghana, Uganda, Liberia and Tanzania to enable the media enable the media to play an effective watchdog role over the oil and gas revenues and resources.