The media in Ghana need to improve their game, Australian High Commissioner to Ghana, Andrew Barnes, has observed.
He told Dr Etse Sikanku on Class91.3FM’s World Affairs programme that for Ghana’s democracy to be strengthened, “I’ll say to you as a journalist that a strong fourth estate is critical and I think probably that Ghana’s media is not tough enough, it needs to be stronger, and one thing that we do have in Australia is a very tough, independent and fearless media. Are the journalists going hard?
“They are a very important part of the accountability process and keeping the ministers and the government and senior public servants accountable and honest, and I think that probably Ghana needs to improve its media a bit more, particularly investigative journalists”.
Mr Barnes acknowledged that “there’ve been some well-known, successful, important cases of investigative journalism here in Ghana in the recent years that have really been very important and good but there could be a lot of more I think.”
In his view, the touch-and-go attitude of the media allows corruption to fester.
“It seems to me that the press might grab a story for a day or two and then lose interest and not follow up and people are left off the hook that way”, he said.
Mr Barnes’ observations about the Ghanaian media come just days after Ghanaian pastor and motivational speaker, Dr Mensa Otabil, said the media in Ghana are so “depressing” and full of “mediocrity” – a situation, he said, compels him to prefer watching foreign TV channels that show documentaries about animals, to wasting his time listening to local radio or watching local TV stations.
The founder of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) told his congregation on Sunday, 4 March during the church’s 34th anniversary service that rather than focusing on discussing and finding solutions to the numerous problems confronting the country, Ghanaian media choose to wallow in ceaseless political discussions all-year round.
“ … If you listen to our national conversations, you wonder: are we serious? We eat and drink politics.
“Turn on radio; here [Ghana], there is no political vacation. From the time the vote is cast to the time the next vote is cast, we argue politics morning, afternoon, evening.
“Check all your top radio talk shows, take politics out and they have nothing to talk about again. I won’t even say take politics out, take NPP and NDC out – just say this morning, no NPP, no NDC, there’ll be no conversation because we can’t even think beyond two parties, we can’t think any ideas, we can’t think solutions and we are driving ourselves into this abyss of hopelessness,” Pastor Otabil bemoaned.
He said to avoid polluting himself with the content churned out by local media, he hardly pays attention to them.
“I don’t listen to Ghanaian radio much, I will listen maybe for 15 minutes and shut off because it’s very depressing. It will contaminate your soul.
“I don’t watch Ghanaian TV much. I watch a little – one, two, three – and I say: ‘Oh, nothing has changed, go back’.
“I will watch animals, I’ll watch cheetah, I’ll watch lion, I’ll watch antelope anytime, I’ll watch cheetahs anytime, I’ll watch giraffes anytime because, at least, they’ll tell me how to hunt, how to get your goal, how to avoid being eaten. I’ll learn that from the antelope. At least, I’d come back and say: ‘Nobody will eat me’. But you [listen to] Ghanaian radio, watch Ghanaian TV and you wonder: ‘are we still here; the mediocrity?’”
In Dr Otabil’s opinion, the quality of Ghanaian media has sunk to the lowest standard and still sinking.
“The excellence that we used to have is all gone down. Instead of raising the bar higher, we’ve lowered it and lowered it and every time we lower it lower and lower and lower and lower and we have huge problems.
“I don’t mind if Americans don’t talk about serious things, they have solved part of their problems. I don’t mind if Germans decide to joke with their destiny and the British decide to joke, but we have no choice – what kind of joke – because we are in a huge mess,” he observed.