Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah established the GNA on March 5, 1957, a day before the proclamation of Ghana’s independence.
As part of activities to mark the occasion, the GNA formally launched a new website, ‘Labaari.com’, to provide exclusive services, news/information and a variety of exciting products to consumers.
Dr Benard Otabil, the General Manager of the GNA who performed the launch, reiterated the important role the agency plays in collecting and providing news from the rural areas in spite of numerous challenges.
He said the agency continued to discharge its mandate of gathering and disseminating truthful and unbiased news, both at the national and international levels, making it the most prominent media institutions in Ghana and Africa.
“It continues to hold sacred, the role of national image-building, fostering national unity, helping to disseminate government policy, as well as mobilizing the people for social and economic development”, he said.
Dr Otabil said when the Agency was established 58 years ago, it was well resourced and ranked alongside the national flag, the national anthem and the national airline in terms of importance.
“But the GNA’s plight today is absolutely unenviable; it has lost effective support from successive governments since the collapse of Dr Nkrumah’s regime and is obviously being regarded more as a liability than a national asset.”
He attributed the dwindling fortunes of the agency to poor remuneration and deteriorating working conditions which have caused a lot of experienced reporters and editors to leave to seek greener pastures elsewhere.
“The wages of the agency’s staff are considerably lower even in post-single spine times, compared to those offered by many other media organizations,” he stated.
He said the dwindling and highly irregular subvention from government was badly affecting news production and delivery, as well as undermining the credibility of the Agency and the government, emphasising that the situation called for a restructuring programme which basically would comprise its recapitalisation and retooling over a stipulated period, after which it could be left to fend for itself.
Dr Otabil said in a bid to demonstrate that given the needed financial support the Agency could become commercially viable, it had developed a number of innovative products. They include the GNA Centre for Journalism and Multimedia Studies, GNA Events and Conferences, GNA Advertiser, GNA Monitoring and Evaluation and, of course, labaari.com, the flagship product which the occasion was used to launch.
“At least government should as a matter of responsibility provide the requisite bailout to ensure that the basic mission of the agency is fulfilled,” he said, adding that a self-sufficient GNA would be in the interest of the Government, the Agency and the wider public.
Mr Mohammed Nurudeen Issahaq, the Acting Director of the GNA’s Editorial Department and Supervising Chief Editor, recounted the history of the organisation, right from Dr Nkrumah’s commissioning of Donald C. Wright, a Reuters staff, in 1957 to help put the foundation pieces together, to the present era.
He said some of the guiding principles President Nkrumah entrusted the GNA at birth were that it should be the mouthpiece of the down-trodden, protect the larger national interest, and help to promote national unity, national cohesion and national development .
Mr Issahaq urged the Reporters and Editors of GNA to ensure that they exercised sound judgement in their professional work, and to refrain from peddling the kind of journalism that would “threaten the cohesion and indeed the very existence of our beloved country”.