Mr Andrew Edwin Arthur, Dean of Ghana’s Parliamentary Press Corps, has called for a public accountability of monies released to the Media Development Fund towards building the capacity of practitioners to enhance professionalism.
He explained: “Till date, the question as to how much has so far been disbursed from the fund and what the money was used for has still not been answered.
“It is regrettable that, such a laudable initiative has been abused by those who were expected to handle it, and I believe it will not be too much to call on the managers of the fund to come out and to let the Ghanaian media know the current state of the Fund.”
Mr Arthur was speaking at an end-of-year get-together, for the PPC, at the Fore Court of the State House, in Accra.
The government in 2011 announced the establishment of a GH¢1 million Media Development Fund to help the media in Ghana’s development but the disbursement of the fund had been fraught with challenges as stakeholders, including the National Media Commission and the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), had been advocating a neutral body to disburse the fund.
In the latter part of 2013, however, the then Minister of Information, Mr Mahama Ayariga, told Parliament, while answering questions, that the money was used to purchase 950 laptops for journalists.
The Minister told Parliament that the laptops were purchased by the Ministry after it had consulted key media stakeholder groups – the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG) and the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA).
But, GIBA denied receiving any money or laptops from the Ministry of Information, while the GJA said it received only 140 laptops.
Mr Arthur criticised the NMC and the GJA for not doing enough to enhance the capacity of journalists to promote high standards and ensure national unity and progress.
He said the two bodies, mandated to regulate journalism practice in the country, had “turned themselves into armchair bodies who bark without biting.”
“…the Parliamentary Press Corps are so sad about the dormant roles being played by the National Media Commission (NMC) and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in terms of training for media practitioners,” Mr Arthur said.
“The fear of the Parliamentary Press Corps is that, if care is not taken, they may become irrelevant as far as Ghana’s media is concerned, since they only keep talking about their problems, key among, which being their inability to move against journalism related offences, instead of they being progressive in finding solutions to the various media excesses.”
Mr Arthur said the NMC and the GJA had been unable to identify credible and reliable media organisations like the Parliamentary Press Corps to work with them through training to efficiently prosecute their mandate.
Mr Arthur, however, commended the Press Corps for its output during 2014, but pleaded with Parliament to adequately brief the Corps on issues likely to generate wide debate to prepare them for coverage because the media would automatically engage in speculations when there is lack of information.
He appealed for office space for the Corps when the Job 600 building was completed, as well as computers to work with.
Mr Arthur assured Ghanaians that the Corps was positioning itself to serve as an effective link between Parliament and the public.
“We have decided as part of our programme this year, to serve as a bridge to close the gap between Parliament and Ghanaians, and this, we are going to do by organizing outreach programmes countrywide to educate Ghanaians on the contents of Bills before the House to afford the interested ones the opportunity of making input into those Bills before they are passed into laws,” he said.
The Dean added: “The same platform will be used to educate Ghanaians on the contents of Bills passed into law in order not to contravene them, as evidence abound to the effect that, as of today, some Ghanaians are not aware of some sensitive laws that have been passed by their representatives into law.”
Mr Doe Adjaho, Speaker of the House, assured the journalists of effective collaboration between Parliament and the Corps, and reminded members that they were part of the institution of Parliament.
He, therefore, urged them to be guided by the new Code of Behaviuor being developed for members of the House.
He asked the journalists to do more research on issues that come on the Floor on the House for well-informed reportage.
The get-together was used to recognize and honour some former members for the corps for their contributions to the birth, growth and development of the Corps.
Among them were Mr Samuel Owusu Nimako, founding dean, and Ms Ruby Amable, both formerly of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation; and Mr James Addy, of the Ghanaian Times newspaper.