Chairman of the Electoral Commission Charlotte Osei wants the media to focus on the pertinent issues. She argues that “there has been no serious publication in the media seriously examining the more than 20 reforms which the electoral commission is implementing in this year’s election cycle and its consequences on the election.” Perfect observation. It definitely set the tone for a discussion on the relevance of the media in promoting the country’s democracy.
I know many of you will question the relevance of the media. I have been asked this question several times; why are you not performing your watchdog role? So I attempt to answer these questions as I focus on the criticism that the media has been through recently.
First, the media is expected to provide a platform which these institutions can use to educate the public. The question is; is it being done? Yes.
Second, how do you expect the media to ask the pertinent questions when you do not provide the media with the facts? How many times has the Electoral Commission willingly released information to the media? Just recently the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) advised the Electoral Commission to be transparent and forthcoming with information. I see the situation where individuals and state institutions take on the media when the media is not doing their bidding.
While the media has a role to perform in the enhancement of Ghana’s democracy and its development, the media cannot do it all alone. The media needs what I will call a watchdog partnership. How do I mean? Institutions must collaborate with the media in the performance of the media’s role. Yes there have been some forms of training workshops, which I commend. However, state institutions must be willing to provide information to the media to ensure that the populace is well educated and informed.
For instance, how would the media know the country’s public debt if the Bank of Ghana is unwilling to provide the figures. In recent times there has been a huge debate on the US$ value of Ghana’s debt. Similarly, you have heard the people who question the debt acknowledging the fact that the bank of Ghana is the only institution with these figures. If the Bank of Ghana does not release those figures how would the media get them? Of course you can argue that the media can use sources or engage in investigative skills to get those figures. However, all these start with leads and assistance from the public. So in the absence of these figures, the media will stoke the debate until the figures are released.
In building a nation, all of us need to partner the media to ensure that at the end of the day, the media is able to effectively inform Ghanaians. Please don’t hold on to information and then turn around to criticize the media. Every society gets the type of media that it deserves. Help the media to help make Ghana a better place.
By Winston Amoah
The writer is the host of Sunrise on 3FM 92.7