The foundation of any growing democracy is to have a buoyant press that speaks truth to power, no matter how awkward or detestable they are.
In the United State of America, President Trump has consistently come under siege from the media. They cover him in a way he hates so much to the point that he calls them out as “Fake news media.”
Mr Trump, in most of his twitter rants, has called CNN “Fake news” and the New York Times as the “failing New York Times.”
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Despite the bitter relationship between him and CNN and the times, he has not denied any of them access to the White House, his trips and media engagement.
On Tuesday, President Nana Akufo-Addo engaged the media after almost six months in office.
Some media were invited but those critical to the administration were carefully left out to the dismay of press advocates.
“For such an important media event with the President, you cannot leave out a major station like Radio Gold. Yes, Radio Gold is Pro-NDC, so what? In fact, that is precisely the reason why they ought to have been invited even if it was only 10 media organisations that were invited, the Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa, Sulemana Braimah, has said. According to latest figures for first quarter 2017, Radio gold is Number 6 in Accra in terms of listernership and number 10 nationally. So, what was the criteria for selecting the media organisations that were invited. Was it out of fear, malice or discrimination? Such a poor judgement!!!.”
Let me admit something here. Shutting the door on anti-government press did not start with the Akufo-Addo administration.
For eight years, the Daily Searchlight, a newspaper very critical of the NDC administration, was never invited to any government sponsored events.
One of the reasons we voted for change, was to correct the wrong of yesterday and not, to entrenched it.
In his opening remarks during his meeting with the press, president Akufo-Addo touted his believe in media pluralism and sharp divergent views although he says he is the most vilified politician by the press not sympathetic to him.
“I think it necessary also to record my delight at the vibrancy of the Ghanaian media. I know there are some who take issue with the media on several fronts, and even go so far as to criticise me for my part in the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, for it made the media ‘too free,’” the president said.
He continued: “Even though I have been one of the greatest victims of the irresponsible section of the media, i.e. those who have created an industry from spewing calumnies, falsehoods and outright fabrications against my person, I do not regret one bit my role in repealing that old, discredited law. The repeal has inspired the Ghanaian media to be one of the freest and most vibrant on the entire continent of Africa, if not in the world.”
No matter how vulgar the pro-NDC press may be, which I have difficulty with their style of journalism, president Akufo-Addo makes it clear yesterday that he prefers “scurrilous media” to the government if he were to choose between the government and the media.
He said: “I may not go as far as Thomas Jefferson when he said that “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”, but I will say that I much prefer the noisy, boisterous, sometimes scurrilous media of today to the monotonous, praise-singing, sycophantic one of yesteryear. The Ghanaian media has, in fact, enriched the nation’s governance by its persistence, curiosity and investigative skills.”
Given the president’s conviction about the media, I am deeply concerned that the Information Minister, Mustapha Hamid and his team, would deliberately fail to invite the so called anti government press.
The folks at the Information Ministry should hasten slowly in trying to satisfy the president. The president does not need praise singers, and he has made that clear. He’s years in politics attest to that.
In ostracising the media opposed to the government, we are building a press of praise singers who may not represent the views of society and the opposition parties.
Being critical of the president and his administration is essential for our democracy. It helps the president to know what the other side of the political divide thinks about him and his appointees.
This is a terrible culture we have built over the years, I sincerely believe it time we end this vicious cycle of denying some press access to the president or the presidency.
It is dangerous for our democracy, it is dangerous for fierce reporting, it is dangerous to build a press of praise singers.