Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sad day for Ghanaian journalism, but I feel vindicated

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

On Saturday, October 25, 2008, The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the august organization that I belong to, organized its 13th Awards Night, but without the highlight of the Night – the Journalist of the Year Award!

According to the GJA the entries submitted were of such poor quality that they did not merit the award. This development saddens me, but in the same vein it makes me feel vindicated.

The event has loudly confirmed what I have been complaining about for so long and it appears no one has been listening - the low level to which journalism has fallen in Ghana!

Lots of the people, who are practicing journalism in Ghana today, appear to be hirelings with no particular attachment to the noble profession. The same is the case with some media owners whose only supreme interest is profit. They make no attempt whatsoever to find the link between the mission of journalism which is to serve the majority of the underprivileged and change society for the good and profit. They are only motivated by profit!

And often when they achieve the mission, it is only by accident.

I remember sometime ago I wrote an article titled "In Ghana something is mightier than the pen” in which I chronicled the heroic history and development of Ghanaian journalism, citing some of the great individuals who paid their due to Mother Ghana and the noble profession.

Soon after I wrote another article titled, "How bland mediocrity succeeds on numbers in Ghana.”, in this article I criticized poor customer service and the kind of journalism that is being pushed down the throat of the good people of this beloved country. As to be expected, a Ghanaian graduate student in the United States wrote a rejoinder to this particular article and launched a scathing attack on my person without addressing the issues I raised in the article.

Not long ago, I wrote another article, "How plagiarists, pirates and profiteers invade a noble profession.”

Two people came to me to complain that the article was too harsh. But just two or three days later an incident led one of them to come back to me and thank me for writing the piece.

There is too much mediocrity in journalism in Ghana. But we refuse to admit it so we could address it.

I felt so ashamed when I was listening to the Information Minister, Asamoah Boateng admonish journalists at the event to show respect to their own organization.

I do not see why a professional belonging to an organization to which principles he or she is subjected to would flout with impunity the norms of the organization. But it happens so often in Ghana, that it has to take the Minister to call us to order.

This again, to me is another confirmation of how far Ghanaian journalism has fallen.

Because any journalist worth his or her salt who belongs to the GJA, would not only submit his or her works to professional scrutiny but more so, as a professional, when such a person falls short in the performance of his or her duty, it is only proper, legally and morally to submit yourself to sanctioning by duly constituted legal bodies.

Listening to our radio stations or watching our TV stations, one could see some great stuff coming out of them, but more often than not programming on our airwaves are becoming less edifying.

As for the majority of our newspapers, the least said about them the better.

In the name of good old noble journalism, some media organizations are practicing plagiarism as if there is no law in this country which stipulates how intellectual property ought to be treated.

The fact that the GJA cannot find any journalist worthy of recognition as journalist of the year is loud enough for the true journalists among us to stand up and be counted.

And I hope this incident would serve as a wake up call to those journalists for whom, journalism is more than just working to put bread on the table, but more than that it is a life-long commitment to serve humanity and change lives for the better.

PS: Sadly, I couldn’t enter the awards competition because the GJA did not include online journalists in any category.

Friday, October 17, 2008

UK investigates e-waste dumping in Ghana

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

The United Kingdom (UK) environment authorities have initiated investigations into the dumping of e-waste into Ghana.

The Environment Agency of the UK has confirmed the ongoing investigations to me in an email response Friday October 17, 2008.

The Environment Agency has responsibility for protecting and improving the environment in England and Wales.

The Senior Press Officer responsible for environment protection, Scarlett Elworthy wrote,"Thank you for your recent inquiry about the reports of UK computers being dumped in Ghana.

Yes. The Environment Agency's National Investigations Crime Team are carrying out inquiries within England and Wales into the circumstances of the alleged illegal exports and we are pursuing a number of lines of inquiry.”

She however said she couldn’t say anything beyond confirming that indeed they are investigating the illegal exports of e-waste into Ghana.

She promised, “I will be happy to provide you with an update once the investigation has concluded.”

E-waste issue watchers believe the investigations are as a result of a report published by the Greenpeace, an environmental NGO about e-waste dumping in Ghana. The report led to public outcry in the UK, and citizens criticized the Agency for failing to do its work which was making it possible for recycling companies to export broken-down computers to Ghana.

During investigations on e-waste dumping in Ghana, some damaged computers found at the Agbogbloshie dump site in Accra had labels of the National Health Service (NHS). Some other computers with NHS labels were also found to be on sale at secondhand electronics equipment dealers’ shops in Ghana’s capital Accra.

Some of the PCs were also found to have come from UK local councils and universities, including Kent County Council, Southampton County Council, Salford University and Richmond upon Thames College’s (RUTC).

The Agency while admitting the investigations refuses to name the firms under investigation. It also denied that the investigations were prompted by media and public criticisms.

It is believed that some recycling companies in the UK after collecting broken-down computers, instead of recycling them collude with some Ghanaian business people and divert the items to Ghana to be sold cheaply.

The UK and other European countries including Germany have come under severe criticisms recently following media and other reports indicating that e-waste from their countries are being dumped in developing countries including Ghana.

And that is in spite of the fact that these countries have passed legislation over a year ago to regulate the handling of e-waste. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive stipulates that Information Technology (IT) manufacturers are legally responsible for the safe disposal of their products, and are obliged to ensure all products are disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner themselves or sign up with a government-approved waste-handling firm to do it on their behalf.

But unfortunately, some of these discarded computers end up in Ghana. There is evidence that despite the more stringent regulatory regimes in the European Union, as much as 75% of the e-waste generated in the EU cannot be accounted for. Presumably, if e-waste ends up in Ghana, then it is only logical to say some of the EU’s 75% unaccounted for e-waste is being dumped in Ghana.

The Greenpeace study found that soil and water bodies at the Agbogbloshie dump site contain high levels of a cocktail of poisonous chemicals. They found levels as high as100 times more than allowable levels.

At the Agbogbloshie site, adults and children, some as young as eight years engage in dismantling brokendown computers, burning the cables to extract copper wires for sale. They do not were protective clothing as they work and therefore are exposed to heavy metals like lead, cadmium and ploybrominated flame retardants.

In April 2008 Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the setting up of a committee to draft a policy guideline to regulate e-waste in Ghana, but not much has been heard about the initiative to date, despite the escalation of the incident of dumping of e-waste in the country.

Ghana’s Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment, has also said it has no immediate plans of banning the importation of used computers and electronics equipment into the country, because if that is done, the prices of computers in the country would soar.

This is in spite of the suspicion among e-waste observers that the open door policy of importation of used computers into Ghana has made it possible for some individuals and organizations to smuggle obsolete and broken-down electronics equipment into the country.

At the Climate Change Conference in Ghana August 21, 2008, Ghana’s Local Government Minister Kwadwo Adjei Darko appealed to e-waste exporting countries to stop using Ghana as a dumping ground.

It is hoped that the UK example would be followed by other European countries including the United States, which is yet to ratify the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

The Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted on 21 March 1989 and went into force on 5 May 1992. It establishes a framework of control over the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes.

The Convention was initiated in response to numerous international scandals regarding hazardous waste trafficking that began to occur in the late 1980s.

It has become imperative at this stage to call for a global action to curb the growing menace of e-waste dumping, because Ghana does not have the scientific and medical capacity to deal with the dangers that e-waste could possibly pose to the environment and human health.

Friday, October 3, 2008

How plagiarists, pirates and profiteers invade a noble profession

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

The noble profession of journalism has been violated in Ghana! It has been so demeaned and scandalized beyond redemption anytime soon.

Ghana’s media landscape has been described variously, often in positive notes, but I am one person who has not been fooled by those high sounding accolades, indeed the media in Ghana has come a very long way, but it is not yet time to say ‘Eureka’!

If you ask me, I will tell you I am the least impressed with the state of the media in Ghana without batting an eye.

The media in Ghana has gone to the dogs! Yes! Professional journalism has been so emasculated it is suffocating under the wait of criminal activities, mediocrity, shallow mindedness and unfettered greed for profit in the name of serving the public interest.

I remember someone taking me on when I lamented about the level of mediocrity that Ghanaians are willing to put up with in as much as they are willing to dish out. Excellence in much of what we do is a far cry and we appear to be just okay with it.

Indeed, anyone who has gone to school and has learned the English language and or any other language for that matter could read and write. And even school drop-outs can also write. As a matter of fact, there are some drop-outs who write better than some PhD holders I personally know.

But the fact that one could write, and indeed write well, does not make one a journalist! Journalism involves writing, but more than that it is governed by rules that anyone who wants to practice the trade must be informed about.

Charlatans, pretenders, hoodlums and any greedy fellow who finds the media a lucrative business venture have infiltrated the noble profession in Ghana, are doing their own things, and justifying their actions by the profits they are raking in.

But it is so appalling, especially so, because most media managers in the country do not understand what journalism is all about. And that is where the plagiarists come in.

Plagiarism is the act of copying another person’s works in the form of writings and putting them up as your own. It is a crime punishable by the law. It is a copyright infringement, but it is so rampant in the media in Ghana.

Ghanaian publishers hire just anyone who can write, refuse to give them training but unleash them into newsrooms to practice journalism and they are perpetrating criminal activities in the name of journalism.

It is common to find plagiarized works in most publications, especially, the online publications. They take works by others and do not credit them appropriately; sometimes they claim ownership of the works, by deleting every reference to the original creator of the intellectual work.

In conversations and correspondences I have had with some of these managers, including some owners of these media they confess that they are not journalists and do not know the rules! I have even had some challenging me when I have questioned their actions in cases where they have stolen my works and that of my hard working colleagues.

These people and all others who indulge in this act should be reminded that, by plagiarising someone's works you are more despicable than an armed robber and a rapist!

My friend Justin told me this morning to name and shame these crooks and that’s just what I am doing.

You would be surprised to know that the culprits include the so called leading media houses with some very highly respected journalists. In fact, one very popular Ghanaian journalist once told me, “but we all do it!” And I told him, well, I don’t. And it is wrong.

You would find that even the nation’s leading newspaper the Daily Graphic is guilty. A Canadian journalist friend of mine told me of how a reporter of the Daily Graphic stole his article and presented it to his editor as his own. He called this reporter and complained to him, and he simply apologized.

Only recently, my colleagues and I in the office found a story we had worked on so hard in the Daily Graphic and every trace and reference to our organization in the story were deleted. The Daily Graphic did not credit us!

A website, ghanamusic also recently stole an article I personally wrote on Ghanaian musician Wanlov the Kubolor and presented it to ghanaweb as their own. I got to know when I saw the story on ghanaweb and complained to the webmaster. He wrote back to me insisting that the story was sent to him by ghanamusic and so if I have any complaints I should make it to ghanamusic. I have written two emails to ghanamusic and they haven’t shown the courtesy of a reply yet.

The Daily Guide also stole a large part of a story we did on the recent Kantamanto fire outbreak and presented it as interviews they did on the spot. But that’s not all, sometime ago, some of the Daily Guide’s reporters stole some stories my colleagues and I published elsewhere and put their names by them as if they wrote them. I remember calling the editor and drawing his attention to the crime and he promised it won’t happen again, but it still goes on.

Other publications like Ghana Review International, allghanadata, ghanatoday, peacefmonline are culprits.

Sometime ago I heard a story I wrote and published elsewhere being read on Peace FM without any reference to either me or the publication that first carried the story – that is plagiarism.

It is perfectly okay to use works by other people but the proper practice is to acknowledge the source. Indicate where you are getting it from. Some publications would do stories from radio sources and say ‘an Accra radio station’, this is meaningless.

Simply indicate the radio station you are quoting. They often do this because they do not want to in their ignorance publicise the radio station or in other instances the website or the newspaper in their medium. Well then, if these sources are not worth mentioning in your medium, then do not use materials from them!

Very soon, I will be taking some of these criminals on by heading to court because that is the right place to deal with thieves!

It is so sad the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and the National Media Commission (NMC) or the Copyright Office are not dealing with this matter. They probably are not because it has not been brought to their attention. Well, now I have.

The Copyright Office has been dealing with pirates of musical works. Plagiarism is the same as piracy and perpetrators must be dealt with.