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Killing the game: Media ownership in Ghana by Kwame Adinkrah

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It is often contended that, like the firearm, the media is both a tool and a weapon; a tool because it functions as a means of communication, a weapon because it has the tendency to mislead and incite.

Experts say media set the stage by spreading animosity against ethnic gatherings in Rwanda that caused the Rwandan ethnic conflicts.

Ironically, in the context of acquiring a firearm many countries have put in place restrictive measures to assess the owner and the intended reason for its possession.

Over the years, Ghana has built a number of legislations to curtail and clip the citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. A person qualified to acquire firearm should be mentally sound, physically fit and must be of good character and without criminal traits or records.

However, same cannot be said when seeking an authorization to operate a radio spectrum in Ghana.

The National Communication Authority (NCA) is a government agency under the Ministry of Communication with the mandate to regulate spectrum for and on behalf of the people of Ghana.

The agency has an additional mandate to auction frequencies to companies to render services as corporate business entities to generate revenue and make profits.

Among the guidelines required by the NCA is the submission of Programming Philosophy to indicate the nature of programming the station intends to churn out.

This requirement alone, however, cannot exonerate potential investors to pursue political agenda or other dangerous interests.

Across the world, political organizations and leaders use and/or abuse media for their own political aspirations.

Similarly, media owners use their media to promote and disseminate their own political views, and exploit politicians to achieve their own (corporate) goals.  

Very recently, a renowned entrepreneur in Ghana, Dr. Sam Jonah in a speech to the Rotary Club indicated that “Our media landscape is so polarised and partisan.

There is hardly any objectivity because a lot of the media stations are owned by politicians whose interest is in swaying voters one way or the other. Independent media practice seems to have faded and journalism has become a conveyor belt for political propaganda, insults, and acrimony.”

Scholars, however, tend to find problems with all forms of media ownership.

According to Picard and Dal Zotto in 2016, private ownership is problematic because proprietors can use it for private interest; corporate ownership can put profit goals ahead of social goals; public service media can present limited choice and are prevented from pursuing political agendas; big companies can control content and markets; small companies cannot provide the proper range of quality and content, and they are weak in the face of pressures from powerful interests; foreign owners can bring in foreign influences that can affect national sovereignty; and domestic owners are often too close to domestic social and political power. Hence, all forms of ownership come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

It is, also, argued that the many of the complaints we have today in Ghana about ownership have nothing to do with ownership per se, rather the over commercialized nature of media in pursuit of economic rewards. Politically, to win and sustain political power.

Prof. Kwame Karikari, Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa has described as dangerous the situation where politicians were constantly owning media houses in Ghana and throwing ethics and professionalism to the wind. 

In his book “Les nouveaux chiens de garde,” Serge Halimiasks whether it is possible to imagine someone buying an instrument that offers the prospect of influence, but foregoing the chance of influencing the orientation of such an instrument?

The Ghanaian media is practically owned and controlled by politicians and entrepreneurs with political affiliationsThere is no ambiguity to that fact. On the corridors of NCA the rumours are rift that if you do not have strong political connection, you will not have a frequency. In other words, if you are not a member of an existing regime it is impossible for NCA to issue you a spectrum.

There is no conspiracy theory needed for the analysis of media deviations in Ghana today.

The traditional roles of radio or the media; to inform, educate and entertain have today become commercial tools auctioned to the highest bidder. These tenants are now utilized as weapons by politicians to incite a section of the populace, propagate their party views and create an atmosphere of uncertainty.

Radio is no longer exciting as it used to be in the 90s where the airways would be filled with good music, high quality presentation and matured news. Today, what we hear on radio could be likened to fragmented noise with unsubstantiated reports and vilification of people.

All radio morning shows have become political shows or politically induced shows. The shows have been crafted to propagate the views of political parties and avenues of setting political agenda.

Every social subject discussed on radio has its own political dimension; every policy is discussed along political lines. Sadly, some journalists are becoming more politicians than the politicians themselves.

But according to Professor Kwame Karikariradio today is as indispensable to the existence, cohesion and development of modem society as oxygen is to the survival of living beings.

It is therefore, imperative that there should be a concerted effort to properly regulate and protect the media space for posterity.

The National Media Commission is struggling on legal interpretation of its mandate to ensure highest journalistic standards.

The Chairman, Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh is on record to have said that the commission cannot regulate contents of media houses and that the commission can only go as far as the documented ethics that has no legal backing.

The Ghana Journalists Association is hanging on code of conducts for their members. A set of codes that is not a legal prerequisite of establishing a radio station.

The Ghana Independent Broadcasting Association is an association of independent broadcasters that can only appeal to members with sanctions not deterring enough to ban offenders from operating.

The Ghanaian media space has become exclusively profit generating enterprise and highly politicized in direct contrast with journalistic requirements of objectivity and diversity.

Stricter laws and regulations, monitoring and sanctions from the NCA and NMC can save the media space.

 

Strictly Personal

Nigeria’s Currency Crisis: Time to deploy Amotekun, By Chinedu Chidi

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I have thought long and hard about just the right solution to the downward spiral of the Naira, and confidently believe I have come up with the perfect response. It is my humble proposal that the time is right to deploy the dreaded Amotekun to arrest this situation. I’ll explain why.

 

Since it is now clear that the Naira’s salvation is not in the hallways of the CBN or the gold-plated policy rooms of Bretton Woods, but in the battle grounds of the nook and cranny of Nigeria, all patriotic Nigerians must now rightly ignore suit-wearing technocrats and search for militant solutions with real promise. As a patriotic citizen, I have risen to this challenge. I would humbly like to thank the patriotic Nigerian leadership, from the CBN to the Executive, for leading us into this new era of mortal combat.

 

Only a few days ago, we were greeted with the live action scene of security operatives combating BDC operators in the nation’s capital, discharging live ammunition in broad daylight in an open civilian space like fearless patriots at the battle front. The EFCC and accompanying security operatives charged forward and backwards as the enemies of state dared challenge them. It was almost like a combat scene from Gibson’s Braveheart. I was touched. I’m not too sure, but I may have heard the humming of the national anthem from these fearless patriots as they battled the savage saboteurs. What a touching moment! Someone who was at the scene mentioned that these patriots recited the pledge before the onslaught. I can’t confirm this for sure, but if it did occur, it would be consistent with the new nationalistic fervour of the Tinubu administration as reported in the news recently that citizens would be required to recite the pledge at events. I also hear the operation is going on in different parts of the country. All these, coming only days after Sahad Stores, a retail supermarket in Abuja, was forcibly shut down for “economic sabotage”, fill me with great joy. Some unpatriotic citizens had shockingly opposed the move, claiming Sahad Stores was one of the good ones, and that deploying force would not resolve the inflation crisis. Cowards and co-conspirators! They’re too distracted by textbook ideas to see that we’re in war. Shame.

 

Normally, I would have recommended the army for this most important national assignment, but they’re overstretched. They’re battling terrorists, bandits, armed robbers, secessionists, their welfare; just about every violent aggressor around. The police would have been my second option but they too are preoccupied and, as some mischievous people claim, have a special DNA for compromise. For these and some other reasons which I will explain, Amotekun has my blessings.

 

I know Amotekun is also seriously engaged with battling bandits in the South West, but they must be pleaded with to spare some personnel for this all-too-important national emergency. Their stealth, daredevil disposition, and my favourite—charms from the gods— will come in handy.

 

I have heard rumours that some of the BDCs hide their stockpile of dollars in forests. This is the domain of the Amotekun warriors. Through their local intelligence gathering and tactical navigation of the forests, they can uncover these dollar chests and win for the country a huge deliverance. Their spiritual protection against wild animals and attacks from dark forces will be very useful here.

 

I am also confident that what has for so long appeared to be the near-impossible goal of finding the dollars some loud-mouthed people claim are hidden by politicians, bank executives and— I struggle to even contemplate it— CBN officials will be spiritually detected by Amotekun. We desperately need this.

 

It was with great joy that I also received the news that our gallant security personnel are now stopping truckloads of food from leaving the country. What took them so long! How can any patriotic businessman think of trade and profit at a time of economic crisis? This beats my imagination. I am even more infuriated by the argument of their unpatriotic defenders that we don’t have food scarcity, just food unaffordability, and that we can’t seriously let them abandon their goods in warehouses while the vast majority of Nigerians can’t purchase them. This is so inconsiderate and sad. Their argument that the exports bring in needed forex at this time of forex crisis is also another textbook nonsense. Shame on them.

 

I am particularly touched by Cardoso’s sincerity and humility. Realizing that the air-conditioned policies have hit the brick wall and that the fight has morphed into street combat, he did not try to deceive the populace about it. This is uncommon (apologies to Akpabio) pragmatism.

 

I want to enjoin the President to rally leaders in the South West towards mass mobilization of Amotekun for this national assignment. We can’t afford to fail!

 

Chinedu Chidi is a public affairs commentator. He can be reached via: chiobe24.cc@gmail.com

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Strictly Personal

The problem of DRC’s beautiful wife, maize it planted by roadside, By Charles Onyango-Obbo

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Watching the upheaval in the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent days, one is tempted to invoke the African proverb that “the man who marries a beautiful woman and the farmer who grows maize by the roadside have the same problem.”

The police fired tear gas on Monday to disperse protesters who burned tyres and US and Belgian flags near Western embassies and UN offices in the capital Kinshasa, angry about insecurity in eastern Congo.

The protesters claim the West supports Rwanda, which they and their government accuse of backing the M23 rebellion, whose advance could see them seize the strategic border city of Goma in the east.

This is a new phase of what has become an entrenched tradition of the Congolese oscillating between blaming everyone else but themselves for their problems, and demanding that other people solve these problems, including fighting for them.

In recent years — rightly — the Congolese have railed, then attacked, the long-running and ineffectual United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) for not ending the rebellion in the east.

In late 2022, DRC’s kin in the EAC dispatched the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) to separate the warring sides. Before long, Kinshasa and the people had risen against them, hounding them to go out to the jungle and fight the rebels for them. At the end of last year, EACRF left DRC with its tail between its legs.

Because the Congolese are our brothers and sisters, and we have a responsibility to love them, we also have a duty to tell them uncomfortable truths that will help them overcome.

So, we will return to our proverb. African proverbs are complicated. First, one needs to know that they passed into society through the mouths of men who were not feminists, so too many of them tend to portray women in bad light.

This one paints a heroic hard-working farmer (although it is mostly women, not men, who work the land in Africa) whose maize is stolen by passers-by, in contrast with the beautiful wife who betrays her husband and falls to the charms of other men.

However, African proverbs are also layered, so there is what they say, and the many things they mean. In this case, that people will covet a good thing — a good crop, a beautiful woman and, if we may add, a handsome, enterprising man. The “problem” here is how to keep your maize, beautiful wife, and enterprising husband. If you are better than all the men who hit on her, your beautiful wife will stay faithfully by your side.

Having your wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend run off with someone else can be very hurtful, but if you have a cantankerous truth-telling African aunt or uncle, they will also whisper to you that a partner whom no other man or woman has ever or will ever want is probably not worth having.

In real-world Congo politics, then, the reality is rebels will have friends and allies at home and abroad. Even Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), as despicable as a rebel group can ever be, had friends outside who backed it.

The thing that should terrify everyone is a rebel group that no one wants to touch with a 10-metre pole, both in the day and night. The opposite is also true of rebels fighting to overthrow a government. If it is a government that doesn’t have a single friend even in the cynical world of geopolitics, then it’s probably worse than a cabal of cannibals.

For Congo, what is left is how to solve this “problem”. To stay with the farmer and the beautiful wife, what the Congolese are doing is like the strapping young man in old Africa who spent all his time attacking his parents, relatives, neighbours, and their friends because they failed to give him cattle to pay a bride price for a wife and build a hut for him to live in with her.

The scale of surrender of agency by many Congolese, including the political class and the government, is unsettling.

It’s partly understandable, too. The unusually brutal Belgian rule; the exploitation of all sorts of vultures for its vast minerals lasting over 100 years now; and an unbroken long spell of corrupt and cruel rule, have broken its self-confidence. The way to come to terms with the scale of failure and remain sane is to externalise all the problems to evil forces.

It has led to national paralysis, a belief that they can’t do much on their own to overcome.

DRC’s neighbours to the east, Uganda and Rwanda, offer good lessons. When President Yoweri Museveni took to the bush with his small band of rebels in 1981, the odds were stacked up against them. The British had a big programme with a special police force; the Tanzanian army that helped overthrow military dictator Idi Amin was on the side of the government, and hardy North Koreans soon got into the fight against them. They still won.

The prospects were even worse for the Rwanda Patriotic Army/Front when it crossed from Uganda and took to treacherous hills in 1990. Apart from Uganda, it was alone against the world, including one of the world’s superpowers at the time, France, which was in bed with the government in Kigali. They suffered setbacks, picked themselves up, and won.

Congo can win, but first, it will have to plant its own maize and fight its war for its own beautiful wife.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the «Wall of Great Africans». Twitter@cobbo3

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