The Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Rt. Hon Alban Sumana Kinsgford Bagbin, has described as pretentious and megalomaniac any attempt by any politician to hide behind the police to act as the standard-bearer of ethical journalism in the country.
Speaking about recent arrest of media practitioners in the country, Mr Bagbin said the police cannot assume responsibility for responsible media practice in Ghana by scanning newspapers and news portals and arresting journalists for errors and misrepresentations.
“Those who are so offended by such write-ups know what recourse they have.”
“I am not for a moment holding brief for irresponsible and unprofessional conduct of journalists. I am simply saying that there is a cure for that in our current legal regime,” he stated.
The Speaker made these remarks when he commissioned an ultra-modern Press Center for the Parliamentary Press Corps in Parliament on Friday.
According to him, the increasing tendency on the part of the police to arrest journalists for mistakes in their reportage is so old school, anachronistic and sends the country back into the dark ages of media persecution.
He observed that journalists oftentimes, in the quest to disseminate information in a timely manner in order to beat deadlines, sometimes make mistakes.
He averred that in this case, the information at times does not turn out to be entirely accurate.
He said, “We end up making some misrepresentations, at times impugning on the integrity and reputation of others.
“The media space and Ghana’s legal regime for the media anticipated this and has prescribed a way out. That is why we have the National Media Commission, and that is why this country has a plethora of laws on the media and free speech,” he added.
Speaker Alban Bagbin observed the work of a journalist is now a more demanding task than it used to be.
He maintained that cutting through the clutter of both new and traditional media channels in order to reach the audience can be an arduous task.
Mr Bagbin stated that, there is a more pressing need for today’s journalists to be not just knowledgeable but very savvy in the day-to-day engagements if by-lines are to be worth the ready.
“You, more than anybody know about the need for timeliness as you compete daily with ordinary citizens with mobile phones, commonly referred to as citizen journalists, who capture events as they happen, post them online with speed and claim they are journalists.”
“Whilst the traditional media has limited reach, new media with its plethora of platforms are able to reach large numbers of people and audiences in real-time,” he said.
He noted in today’s era of fake news, the professional journalist has the added task of checking and crosschecking facts before publishing, which comes at a cost to the speed with which the journalist is able to file stories.
The commissioning of the new Press Center is expected to mitigate these challenges.