Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has told the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) to be a part of the efforts of the government to tackle the growing intolerance in the Ghanaian society which he says is creeping into the media space.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah indicated that the GJA has a role to play in the effort of the government.
His comments come after the GJA criticized his earlier statement reacting to the attack on United Television (UTV) by some youth believed to be members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Mr Oppong Nkrumah’s earlier statement after the attack on the station said “The Ministry condemns in no uncertain terms any unauthorized entry into media organization in protest of media content or interference with media work.
“The Ministry stands with the Police and the courts in the conduct of their duties. The Ministry wishes to encourage the media especially broadcast media show hosts and panelists to do their utmost to promote national cohesion even as they exercise their fundamental freedoms.”
However, the GJA was unhappy with the statement that he issued.
The association in a statement said “We are also aware of a press statement signed by Richard Ahiagbah in the name of the NPP denouncing the invasion unreservedly and distancing the NPP from the ‘unacceptable’ act, although he admits the perpetrators are sympathisers of the party. Inasmuch as we welcome the apology, we can only place value on its sanctity, and embrace it beyond rhetoric, if the party sanctions the perpetrators for doing something it did not sanction.
“Indeed, the GJA cannot uphold the sanctity of the apology when spokespersons of the NPP, some connected to the communications directorate, had earlier instigated such hooliganism against the television station without being reprimanded. It is also disturbing and, indeed, unfortunate, for the leadership of the NPP to direct one of its officers to write a letter to UTV demanding content reforms in respect of the ‘United Showbiz’, although Article 162(4) of the 1992 Constitution frowns on control and interference by the Government [and any other authority] in the editorial opinion and content of media institutions.
“Interestingly, the letter, dated September 19, 2023, was signed by the Director of Finance and Administration, William Yamoah, a rather unusual source of communication with the media in such matters. The GJA has also taken notice of a press statement issued by the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, on the happenings at UTV, but we are highly disappointed in the Minister for issuing that wobbling statement. In the second paragraph of the press statement, the Minister tries to justify the barbaric attack by holding that the hooligans entered UTV ‘allegedly without authorization’ when he was the very person who reported to, and called in, the Police; in the fourth paragraph, the minister avoids direct condemnation of the hooligans and conveniently makes his condemnation general, and, worst of all, in the last paragraph, the Minister imposes a burden on the media to promote national cohesion, regardless of the incessant attacks against them.
“The Minister’s press statement is in sharp contrast to another one issued by the PR Unit of his Ministry on May 4, 2023, in respect of the attack on a radio presenter on Dagbon FM in Tamale by a communicator of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). The Ministry’s May 2023 press statement was very direct: the Ministry described the attack as ASSAULT without any ‘allegedly’ clothing; the Ministry condemned the act, specifically without giving it general direction; the Ministry called for ‘severe and speedy response from law enforcement agencies’ to avoid future recurrence; the Minister had a telephone conversation with victim of assault, and the Minister ‘offered the support of the Ministry if he will require any’. Between the two cases – Dagbon FM and UTV, the Minister of Information and/or the Ministry of Information has or have not been even-handed in addressing the critical issues at stake, and we find that very worrying.”
Reacting to the GJA’s statement on the Midday news on TV3 Monday, October 9, Mr Oppong Nkrumah who is also the Ofoase Ayirebi lawmaker said “I think that it is important to be very clear that we have a common enemy we are fighting. That common enemy is the growing level of intolerance within the Ghanaian society which is creeping into the media discourse, the growing resort to violence to express views, and the growing resort to bellicus and insulting language generally which is creeping into the media, that is what we have been fighting from 2022 January from the Radio Ada incident to the Radio Dagbon incident and now. What I expect of the GJA is to be a part of that solution.
“I just heard part of their statement that is calling on media houses to continue to be professional in their work. I don’t think that the statement that the GJA made is wobbling, I think it is a fair statement and I don’t think anyone else who makes a similar statement has made a wobbling statement.
“Remember that it was I who called the IGP that there was a report we had received and that the Police should intervene and deal with. Remember that it was I who called the station saying that we are taking action and we wanted the station to also take a report.”
Following a complaint from the Despite Media Group and Ministry of Information that certain people had invaded the studios of UTV, the Police said they proceeded to the scene and arrested sixteen persons.
The incident occurred during the broadcast of the station’s United Showbiz programme on Saturday, October 7. The show was disrupted immediately after it started around 9PM.
The arrested persons were captured in a video indicating they had gone for one of the panelists Kwame Asare Obeng (A-Plus).