Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The speech I gave at the official launch of

Mr. Chairman, Special Guest of Honour, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, today marks a defining moment in the media landscape of Ghana – the medium we are launching today, is a pacesetter in new media or online journalism.

Even though the site has been in operation only for a year, it has made such remarkable impacts that its visitor profile keeps growing everyday.

But that’s not the whole story. Indeed, starting any business in Ghana is like starting a war. While, the usual response one gets is the “no one has done it before and succeeded” remark, you are also likely to have some people dedicate time, energy and resources to work at ensuring that you do not succeed. Only few indeed wish you well, and go beyond the wishes to give you a hand.

To be set for success therefore, one must be prepared to take a firm posture and be prepared to fight on at any cost. The media business terrain is indeed not for the faint-hearted.

In as much as these are worrying – especially when you are starting a news medium – what is more disturbing is the present media landscape one has to operate in Ghana today.

Journalism has long been held as the Fourth Estate of the Realm because of its prestigious position and importance to the good of the wider society. But activities of some of our colleagues have slipped this dignified institution into disrepute and scorn.

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me to draw your mind back to some unfortunate events in our not too distant history.

Some 20 years ago, to be a journalist in Ghana was a criminal endeavour just like being labeled a terrorist today in some parts of the world. Only few journalists dared to be critical. The situation was so bad that draconian newspaper laws were passed targeting specific journalists and media. This made it impossible to practice the kind of critical journalism that promotes a progressive, pluralistic society.

Some of the country’s journalists had to go in and out of prison for merely writing the news. There were some casualties. John Kugblenu, of the Free Press, and the newspaper publisher, Tommy Thompson were among the losses of this tyranny. These two gallant men stood up to the tyranny of the era, but they paid the ultimate price for serving society to the best of their abilities. They will always be remembered.

Against this background, it becomes unacceptable to have the kind of journalism that the good people of this country are being subjected to these days.

Journalism in Ghana appears to have been reduced to a pedestrian vocation that is open for mass participation as though there are no rules or values guiding the practice.

We all know for a fact that the general quality and depth of journalism in Ghana today leaves much to be desired.

It is evident that not only have charlatans and pretenders, with the unflinching backing of their sponsors, found it easy to hijack the noble profession for their own parochial interests, but they have also succeeded in carving a certain image for the profession. This has effectively distorted the true image of journalism in the country.

Indeed, a number of studies have shown that the media in Ghana is covering mostly what is not news at all, but ordinary everyday gossip; publishing stories in a manner that defies journalistic principles.

A recent study published by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition which was done by Dr. Audrey Gadzekpo of the School of Communication Studies, Legon, shows that important news and information receive very little coverage, and where they are covered they are buried somewhere in the inside pages.

Indeed, the study also found that stories that should have made the headlines were given poor treatment; with most of the stories being one sided. Another indictment on Ghanaian journalism as found by this particular study is the fact that most stories lack in-depth analysis.

At the height of this rather unacceptable situation is the blatant abuse of the copyright laws of Ghana and intellectual property rights of others, even by so called leading media organizations.

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, the copyright laws of Ghana and international conventions make it explicitly clear on how to use intellectual works of others. In using the works of others, the least one could do is at least to attribute or credit the sources. But some journalists in Ghana deliberately copy material from other sources and put these up as their own. I have had occasion to raise issues on this subject right here in this hall some few months ago, but the situation since then has not changed – it has worsened.

The challenges are not only internal, there are also external factors that stand in the way of practitioners. A typical example is the refusal of public officials to provide very simple and basic information for news and analysis.

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I had to quit my job with a good pay packet by Ghanaian standards to set up I did this because at one point, I was told that if I wanted to do professional journalism I should go and establish my own medium. Well, here I come!

I did not start because it is fun; I had to invest literally what was my life’s savings, and indeed modify my lifestyle in great detail to be able to manage the website over the last couple of months.

I did this, motivated by the conviction that Ghana deserves better, and so if I have what it takes to give this great country what it deserves in line with a profession I have lived my life for in the last 20 years, well why not?

More importantly, with ICT and the World Wide Web becoming the technology of the century I was even far more convinced that by getting into online journalism, at least I could attempt in my own little way to give the Ghanaian media a good face globally as well as promote businesses and good journalistic practice the best way possible.

I am not surprised therefore, that in this short period, which we are launching today has become the number one business news source on Ghana according to rankings by the world’s number one search engine, Google.

For instance, if you type the words, “Ghana business news” in Google search engine, out of 24.5 million results, appears as the first two pages. This is a good start ladies and gentlemen!

I want to thank the organizations and some of the individuals who have made this event possible.

I am grateful to the World Bank, Ghana Country office for the encouragement and support. I thank Accra Brewery Ltd., for providing the drinks to refresh us all and Voltic Ghana Ltd., also for refreshing us with water.

I also want to thank the distinguished chairman of the event, Prof. Kofi Oduro-Afriyie, Mr. Affail Monney, for standing on for Mr. Ransford Tetteh who couldn’t make it as planned for some very good reasons. I am also thankful to Mr. Bright Blewu for his encouragement and support in making this programmes a reality.

Ladies and Gentlemen: At, our goal is to practice journalism of the best quality that can match international standards. But above all fulfill the primary mission of the profession – to serve the public interest and do good to all persons and groups.

Thank you all for coming and God bless you.