I wish to first and foremost congratulate the Best Journalist of the Year 2018, Ms Doreen Hammond of Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), and other deserving journalists who were honoured at the 24th Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Awards.
As part of activities marking its platinum (70th) anniversary, the GJA climaxed the event with the awards ceremony. The media landscape, as the Fourth Estate of the realm, has contributed immensely in shaping public opinion, accountability, transparency, democracy, and good governance.
In the face of the convoluted hazards associated with journalism, there are still a number of selfless journalists who serve wholeheartedly for the good of society. It is, therefore, expedient to acknowledge the efforts of media professionals who distinguish themselves in their respective fields.
As a matter of fact, I was not surprised that Doreen Hammond was adjudged the GJA Journalist of the Year, as well as the Best Columnist for the Year 2018. There is no denying that Doreen deserves the prestigious crown, considering her sterling performance over the years. For instance as Features Editor of the Daily Graphic, she displayed an impeccable writing and editorial dexterity.
Consequently, she was elevated as Editor of the Junior Graphic in September this year. As a prolific writer of repute, she has won the respect of several readers including me. I have always enjoyed reading her inspiring, thought-provoking and masterpiece articles on topics such as politics, religion, education, human rights, health and agriculture, just to mention a few.
It is worth mentioning that Doreen Hammond is a multiple GJA awards winner. Interestingly, she took the Best Female Writer (print) in 2010 and 2011, respectively; and the Best Feature Writer in 2011. Furthermore, she won the Best Report for Education in 2015, and the Best Report for Health (print) in 2017. This is no mean achievement, considering the chronology of her career accomplishments.
Few moments after receiving the GJA ultimate award, Ms Hammond admonished journalists to uphold the ethics of the profession and not to turn their work into an avenue of self-aggrandisement. She also criticised journalists who rub shoulders with slay queens and kings in order to gain recognition in society.
What most Ghanaians expect from the media is to exercise due diligence that conforms to best practices, since professional journalism will go a long way to engender national development. That is not to pontificate that practitioners from the media fraternity have not done much in terms of nation building.
There are quite a number of journalists whose efforts have had a magnificent impact on society. Even though the list is endless, I would like to mention a few, namely: Bernard Avle (Citi FM), Anas Aremeyaw Anas (Tiger Eye PI), Seth Kwame Boateng (Joy News), Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng (GBC), and Manasseh Azure Awuni. The above-mentioned are relatively young journalists who have persistently maintained high standards in their respective fields.
I couldn’t agree more with Doreen Hammond when she opined that it was wrong for journalists to accept money or what is popularly known as ‘soli’. The term ‘soli’, in the Ghanaian media parlance, refers to the practice where reporters accept money after covering an event for publication. Undoubtedly, this practice has the tendency to influence journalists to be bias in their reportage.
On the other hand, some have argued that journalists should not be blamed for taking ‘soli’, since they are compelled to accept gifts due to circumstances beyond their control. Unfortunately, some media outfits do not pay their reporters, so they depend on ‘soli’ for their livelihood. Not to mention the transportation needs of journalists who travel long distance to cover events.
Much as we cannot downplay the welfare of journalists, it is not justifiable to encourage such practice at the expense of ethical standards. Like Ms Hammond, all journalists should muster the courage and say no to ‘soli’. It is an open secret that some journalists accept gifts (bribes) in order to kill stories of public interest. If the media is the voice for the voiceless, then practitioners should exhibit high ethical standards by ensuring accuracy, transparency and accountability.
In an interview, Ms Doreen Hammond was reported to have stated that she had never taken ‘soli’ in her line of duty. Of course, that is a good example. I hope the achievements of Doreen will spur upcoming journalists to strive for excellence in the profession. To sum it up, I salute all the 162 outstanding individuals and organisations that were exclusively honoured at the just ended GJA Awards.
The leadership of GJA deserves commendation for its enormous achievements, including the introduction of the competitive awards ceremony for its members. The association should be more proactive in dealing with members who go contrary to the rudiments and ethics of the profession.
As we enter another electioneering year in 2020, the media should be apolitical and circumspect in their reportage. Setting the right media agenda is the best way to go. Once again, ayekoo to all the GJA award winners.
James B. Annan