The downgrade in Ghana’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, an international rating agency, has offered a lot of fodder for discussion as far as the media industry in Ghana is concerned.
As usual, there has been a spirited attempt by the opposition and other anti-government elements to leverage on some aspects of the report to feed into their narrative that the government is not promoting press freedom in the country.
And as can also be expected, the government and its associates have been fighting back to deflate what they consider as an ‘overblown propaganda’ to make it look bad in the eyes of the citizenry and the international community.
But, in all these, we at the Daily Statesman think there is a very critical aspect of the report that should be of much concern to all stakeholders in the media industry, but unfortunately appears not to be receiving all the attention it deserves in the whole discourse.
According to the Report, Ghana scored the lowest on media economy (around 40%). This point basically looks at the economic situation of the media in Ghana. It focuses on remuneration, training and provision of working equipment for journalists, among others. This dropped the country’s ranking further down, and not the so-called clamp down on the work of the media.
Poor working conditions
The issue of poor working conditions and indecent salaries of journalists has been a major source of worry for stakeholders in the media industry, especially journalists, over a long period of time. Unfortunately, it appears the issue may never get resolved, at least anytime soon.
That is the unfortunate reality, even though we all seem to agree that poor and unethical journalistic practice comes about as a result of the fact that journalists in the country are not financially secure.
“If you have journalists receiving as low as GH¢500 a month, an amount equivalent to the allowances received by National Service personnel, then such journalists can easily be enticed to skew reportage,” one senior journalist said recently.
Many people are worried that a lot of charlatans have invaded the journalism profession, giving it a bad name with their unprofessional and ‘dirty’ work. Part of the reason is that the labour of the competent and professional journalist has gone unrewarded for a long time.
For many journalists in the country, the profession is no longer about ensuring that they go about their work in responsible and professional manner. It is now all about how to carry out their work in a manner that will enable them make some money to meet their needs. Simply put, journalism in the country is now about economic survival.
Unfortunately, a journalist who sees his work only as a means of economic survival cannot be expected to be professional and independent in the discharge of his work. In our part of the world, the only best option available to a journalist under such situation is to allow himself to be used by others to advance their parochial agenda.
And here, it is either you do the bidding of the party in government or the main opposition party. The end results in these scenarios are two groups of journalists at the extreme ends – one who sees and writes or says nothing ‘negative’ about his paymasters, and the other who only sees and writes or says ‘negative’ things about the opponents of his paymasters.
That is the sad state of affairs of journalism in the country at the moment. And until the situation of poor remuneration is tackled, we just have to forget about seeing the day when journalists in the country will begin to work in that independent and professional manner we all want to see.