Et tu, GJA?

Et tu, GJA?

• Membership of the Ghana Journalists Association must be clearly defined

If you read Shakespeare’s *Julius Caesar* then the import of my title will not be lost on you.

My bottom line here is that, but for the food and drinks, many journalists or members of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) would have stayed away from the end-of-year dinner graced by the president of the Repub­lic, Nana Akufo-Addo last month.

I make no apology for the above as­sertion because I have personally been involved in organising media events that saw many journalists falling over for small chops and drinks. And everyone knows this for a fact. But this is not the gravamen of my postulation today.

Some members of the GJA have not been happy with the recent election of the presidency of the Association, with allegations of vote buying, influence peddling and political patronage.

Long before the election, it was ru­moured all over the media space that one of the contestants, Albert Kwabe­na Dwumfour, was a sympathiser of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the other two, Gayheart Edem Mensah and Dave Etse Agbenu, who eventually lost, had NDC sympathies.

It thus seemed that the GJA was split into two political camps, an unhealthy phenomenon creeping into a professional body; a body touted as the Fourth Estate of the Realm with a mandate to keep our political leaders on their toes and accountable to the people.

Indeed, the eventual winner is an employee of the Tobinco Group whose Chairman was seen in a viral video canvassing for votes for his employee with monetary inducement. He was ac­tually heard saying if his employee was elected, it would enhance the fortunes of his business.

Dave Agbenu is the Editor of the State-owned Ghanaian Times and Gay­heart Mensah is a staff of the Parlia­mentary Service in the office of the Rt. Hon Speaker. Nowhere was it rumoured that the Parliamentary Service or the NDC campaigned respectively for Gay­heart and Dave.

As a businessman, Mr. Tobin is wont to shift allegiance to whichever way the political pendulum swings. It was, however, an immature act by Mr. Tobin to openly involve himself the way he did. Either he is not business savvy or rather naive in matters of mixing busi­ness with electoral processes.

Our political parties would be quick to want to influence the choice of leadership of the GJA. They have the right to want to get the media on their side. I have spoken to a few colleagues who confirmed the support the even­tual winner received from operatives of the NPP, but they could not say if the NDC did the same for the other two. Some were quick to add that they knew the winner was pro-NDC but might have turned the coat.

If, indeed, he is a turncoat, the signal this sends is the probability to use his position and a launchpad for a future political career. If he harbours such ambition, it will be in his own interest to abort the thought before it consumes him.

One unfortunate perception the NDC, as a political party, has is that the Ghanaian media is in bed with the NPP and so might not be minded to support any candidate even if he is proven to be one of their own. I confess that Dave and Gayheart are my personal friends, thus it was difficult for me to make a choice between them. They both know that I never temper my principles with friendship.

I cannot say I know where Dave stands politically, but one might think Gayheart leans towards the NDC, sim­ply because he supported his big broth­er’s bid to be the NDC flagbearer in the past. I do not yet know if this is enough proof that he had the support of the NDC. With hindsight of what the party perceives, the NDC would leave Dave and Gayheart to their own devices If, indeed, they were party men. Better still, if they were, the party would have sent a delegation to ask one to step down for the other.

Methinks if our politicians infil­trate our ranks, it is because we have allowed them to. Mention any known journalist and we are quick to tell you what party he belongs to.

Even some senior journalists are party activists, thus bringing objective professional conduct under suspicion. We cannot blame the politicians if they try to influence our elections. Every politician takes advantage of what inures to their benefit, not so?

I have two worries though. First is the monetization of the GJA electoral process. If we have a duty to write and say how dangerous monetization of our national elections have become, whether at congress or general elec­tion, and we turn around to do the same within our own processes, what moral right do we have to take our politicians to task for the same thing?

Second is the direction to which the GJA is drifting. The issue of defining who journalist is will not go away yet. The current president of the GJA is not a journalist, though he worked at a media setting. Ghanaians will recall the hoopla that followed the declaration of the late Komla Dumor as Journalist of the Year a couple of decades ago.

Komla, may he continue to rest in peace, was not formally/professionally trained as one, which was the basis for the objections his elevation elicited. I remember in one radio interview, I stated that until we delineated how the GJA was composed, there was nothing wrong with Komla Dumor winning the award. Today, the BBC has immortalised him with a Komla Du­mor breakout journalist award across Africa.

By its name, the GJA must be an as­sociation of journalists by the descrip­tive nuances of who a journalist is. If we want to broaden the scope, then the current appellation is nebulous. It should rather be the Ghana Media Association.

This will naturally encompass all those working in the media space; administration, camera persons, sound engineers, producers, lighting persons etc.

Take the Ghana Education Service, for example. It encompasses all man­ner of employees, but teacher awards are limited only to teachers. There are pupil teachers, graduate teachers in both professional and non-professional categories.

Therefore, there are no qualms about who becomes the winner of the Best Teacher awards.

Therefore, who a journalist is and who qualifies for membership of the professional association must be clear­ly defined and spelt out. Until this is done, the issue of who is a journalist will come up every once in a while.

Personally, I do not care who heads the Ghana Journalists Association so long as that leader respects and steers the Association away from the path of political patronage. He must ensure that the group is insulated from out­side influence and manipulation.

In a number of his books, Tuesday Lopsang Rampa always described jour­nalists as the most evil force on earth. The GJA could fit this description unless it is steered away from licking political boots.

We cannot do our work at the be­hest of political paymasters. We need to protect our integrity, professional­ism and dignity at all times.

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By Dr. Akofa K. Segbefia

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