Journalists from 14 West African states have gathered in Accra to attend a maiden West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards where outstanding journalists in various fields would be rewarded.
The conference is on the theme “Impacting Lives through Media Excellence.” It precedes the awards ceremony, which comes off today. The journalists are from Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, Liberia Sierra Leone, Benin and Burkina Faso.
Role of media
Opening the conference in Accra yesterday, the Minister of Information, Mr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, said journalists had a central role to play in democratic governance for which reason they needed to exercise a high sense of responsibility in the discharge of their duties.
He indicated that journalism impacted the lives of the people and, therefore, had a direct relationship between development and democratic freedoms.
Mr Abdul-Hamid, however, expressed concern about the practice by some journalists to use the media to deliberately impugn the hard won reputation of people for no just cause.
He expressed the government’s commitment to further deepen Ghana’s democratic space and pledged the government’s willingness to push for the passage of the Right to Information Bill (RTI) in the next session of Parliament, stating that the RTI was currently before Cabinet.
An international media expert and the Director of Nexus Group in Senegal, Ms Sophie Ly Sow, said the conference and awards ceremony was to celebrate journalism excellence in the region.
She expressed optimism that the future of journalism in the sub-region was bright and that journalists had the responsibility to hold people accountable.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), organisers of the event, Mr Sulemana Braimah, said the combined effects of democratisation and increasing internet access had resulted in a significant growth in the media industry in the sub-region in the last 20 years.
He stated that the growth of the industry presented a great opportunity for the consolidation of the nascent democracy in the region.
“Unfortunately, growth in the media industry has not been matched with quality journalism. Quality journalism has been scarce, standards have been on a free fall and the remaining few, courageous and outstanding journalists are fast becoming endangered species that need to be resolutely protected before they are forced to extinction,” Mr Braimah stated.
The former Executive Director and founder of the MFWA, Professor Kwame Karikari, who spoke on the promotion of media development in West Africa in the last 20 years, said no journalists had been killed within the period.
He said the region had not seen serious threats to the safety of journalists and that the condition of service for media personnel was much better today than it was in the past.
Prof. Karikari further indicated that the media within the sub-region played significant roles in the restoration of democracy, rule of law and the removal of dictatorial leaders.
The General Secretary of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr Edmund Kofi Yeboah, called for capacity building programmes for journalists to enable them to function effectively.
He further called on media organisations in the sub-region to collaborate in publishing common stories that would be tailored to the development of the continent.