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Yankah Deplores Poor Standards In Journalism

By James Harry Obeng


THE mushrooming of journalism training schools across the country coupled with the infiltration of charlatans who posed as journalists has caught the attention of Mr Kojo Yankah, President of the African University College of Communications [AUCC].


Mr Yankah, a one-time director of the Ghana Institute of Journalism [GIJ] and a former minister of state cum parliamentarian, said there have been genuine concerns about falling standards of journalism in Ghana and Africa, a development he attributed to the numerous number of journalism schools replete with the country.


Mr Yankah made the observation when he addressed a dedication ceremony to mark the relocation of the AUCC from Accra to a permanent city campus, named ‘Discovery House’, at Adabraka. The event also saw the matriculation of the first batch of degree students admitted in the school to pursue various four-year programs in communications, including journalism, strategic communications, development communications, visual and digital communications, among a set of refresher and newly introduced short courses.



He said in a pan-African research effort undertaking in 17 African countries, including Ghana, by the BBC World Service Trust, in collaboration with the Rhodes University of Southh Africa and Ahmadu Bello University of Nigeria in march 2005 indicated that the quality of radio programming was low in Ghana, due to lack of trained journalists.


He noted with grave concern the development where politics have inundated radio stations in the country, saying ‘political communication is so charged on our radio stations that you sometimes get the impression that we do not even appreciate our own collective achievements as a people’,


In addition, Mr Yankah  noted in reference to the report that, apart from the low quality of some newspapers ‘the freedom gains made possible by the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law in 2001 are in some respects being undermined by irresponsible journalism’.


‘On television, the report said that locally produced information programming was of poor quality’, he added, calling for a concerted collective effort to address the development to salvage the image of journalism as practiced in the country.


He however prevailed on practicing journalists and communication practitioners to avail themselves of opportunities provided the school to upgrade their professional performance.


For his part, Dr Mensa Otabil, Chancellor of the Central University College (CUC), challenged politicians and political office holders to stand firm by their resolve to develop the country, especially when they peter out of the political scene.


He observed most politicians failed to commit and channel individual resources and intellect towards national development immediately they retire from politics, adding “it becomes over for some whilst others also die mentally”.


He added the future of the country lied on her ability to develop effective and transformational leaders who applied the principles of value-centred leadership to the challenges and demands of modern times.


He however charged Ghanaians, especially students in the country’s universities, not to dissipate their energies on narrow and petty squabbles of society to blind their minds of the enormous opportunities available to them.


May 23, 2008 Posted by | News | Leave a comment


By: James Harry Obeng

The Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC) says it is disappointed that government has signed the interim agreement covering the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), adding the agreement is a clear demonstration of the European Union’s (EU) selfish intents.

The Union said it was also surprised that government could waive her concerns to initial the interim EPA, despite the caution that it was only false for government to assume that by integrating quickly into the global economy, the country could step up productivity and enhance competition among local enterprises.

It further identified the unbridled trade liberation of the EPA coupled with the high lending rates in the country as the major constraints to the international competitiveness of domestic enterprises, questioning “how can our enterprises compete on the international market when firms in other countries are borrowing at less than 5 per cent interest rate while investors in Ghana have to pay over 20 per cent interest rate on loans”

These were concerns raised by the Acting Secretary-General of the TUC, Bro. Kofi Asamoah, as this year’s May Day celebration came pass in Accra, adding “we were very disappointed to learn that our government has initialled the interim agreement.

“We are strongly opposed to the signing of the interim EPA because of its potential negative impact on job creation in Ghana” he noted.

Bro. Asamoah enumerated that aside the negative effect of the EPA on job creation in the country, such commitment defeated the objective of nurturing a competitive private sector, increased revenue mobilisation for the provision of social services and to improve the country’s weak economic infrastructure.

He said the TUC had drawn the attention of government to the potential risks involved in concluding a free trade agreement with a trade giant like the European Commission, saying such a move was a clear demonstration of the EU’s selfish intents.

“We were, however, very surprised to learn that Ghana government has finally succumbed to the pressures of the European Commission,” adding that, “ even Nigeria with the largest economy in the sub-region opted for the GSP+ which we recommended to Ghana government”

Since the agreement was in its interim form, Bro Asamoah advised government to take the concerns and suggestions of the TUC into account as it continued to negotiate the final EPA.

He also urged the government to exercise circumspection to ensure that the interests of the country and the ECOWAS sub-region were not compromised.

“On the interim EPA, taking into account the clout that Ghana has in the ECOWAS sub- region, we urged government to be circumspect and to work in partnership with other countries in the region to ensure that our national and sub-regional interests are well protected”.

May 21, 2008 Posted by | News | Leave a comment


By James Harry Obeng


he Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) became the subject for heated discussion and referencing as a workshop to educate employees about their rights came to an end in Accra on Saturday.

The question, “what kind of organisation theory are employers resorting to?”, set the platform for heated arguments and querying that did not only engaged attendees on the rights of the employee under the Ghanaian law, but also focused on the worrying developments of ever-increasing industrial disputes enveloping the country in recent times, especially strike actions.

The workshop, organised under the theme “know your rights as an employee according to Ghanaian law” by the African University College of Communications (AUCC) Chapter of the Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), drew participants from selected tertiary institutions in Accra, including the AUCC, Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) and the Institute of Multimedia Studies (IMS).

In a presentation, the Head of Research at the National Labour Commission (NLC), Mr. Paul Kofi Amegee, disclosed that the NLC had received 1,874 employee petitions between 2005 and 2007, pegging the monthly figure of complaints lodge with the Commission at 60.

The petitions, he said, covered seven major categorizations of complaints, namely summary dismissals, unfair termination of appointments, retirement or end of service benefits, unpaid salaries, workmen’s compensations and redundancy or severance pay issues, among other matters. So far, 457 complaints have been successfully settled by the commission within the period under review, he added.

Giving a breakdown of the statistics Mr. Amegee indicated that 2005 recorded 525 petitions made up of 123 summary dismissal cases, 120 unfair termination of appointments, 57 retirement benefits complaints, 50 unpaid salaries, 15 workmen’s compensation petitions, 33 redundancy pay issues and 127 other complaints.

The year 2006, he said, recorded a surge in the figures, recording 138 additional complaints in view of the previous year. These complaints encompassed 145 summary dismissal issues, 178 unfair terminations of appointments, 72 retirements benefits complaints, 77 complaints of unpaid salaries, 11 workmen’s compensation petitions, 43 redundancy pay complaints and 137 other complaints.

Mr. Amegee recounted that 2007 saw the complaints ballooned to 686, involving 161 summary dismissal issues, 171 unfair terminations of appointments, 64 retirement benefits complaints, 77 unpaid salaries, 26 workmen’s compensation petitions, 56 redundancy complaints and 131 other petitions. He added however that the statistics for 2007 were provisional.

Mr. Amegee attributed the numerous complaints characterizing the industrial front to the non adherence to the Labour Act by employees and employers alike

“Most are also a result of the lack of disciplinary codes at various institutions in the country”, he said.

Responding to a query about what constituted unfair termination of appointment, Mr. Amegee exhausted section 63 of the Labour Act and cited such terminations engendered on grounds of ones gender, race, colour, ethnicity, origin, religion and creed, social, political or economic status.

He however described as fair, in accordance with section 62, all terminations on grounds that the worker is “incompetent or lacks the qualification in relation to the work for which he is employed, proven misconduct of the worker, redundancy under section 65 and due to legal restrictions imposed on the worker prohibiting him from performing the work for which he is employed”

Mr. Amegee advised attendees to “insist on employment letters covering agreements and contracts” as a way of avoiding unfair termination of appointments and also urged employees o join trade unions for the promotion and protection of the economic and social interest.

He said with such union, a formidable front was always presented in addressing eventualities.

Touching on strike actions in the country, Mr. advised that though the right to embark on strikes was granted under law, employees should exercise circumspection and restraints before pouring onto the streets.

This was because, “they create social problems like unemployment which also results in prostitution, thievery and robbery”

“We have the right strike but let’s exercise that right with circumspection”, he quipped.

He advised parties involved in industrial disputes to negotiate in good faith with a view to reaching a settlement of the dispute, adding that parties should not hesitate in resorting to the NLC whenever such negotiations breakdown.

May 21, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


By James Harry Obeng

Arguably, the debate vis-à-vis state funding of political parties has calmed down following months of critical and analytical exegesis volunteered by experts, and subsequently the unanimous adoption of the Proposed Draft Bill by the four major political parties in the country, viz the New Patriotic Party, National Democratic Congress, Convention Peoples’ Party and the Peoples’ National Convention. Invariably, media outfits in the country, especially the print, have demonstrated unbridled interest in the issue, dedicating pages to publicising the views of experts and reporting extensively on the issue, all of which have considerably whipped up public interest and informed discourse.

In its issue of April 8, 2008, Daily Graphic front-paged a seeming revival of the debate as envisaged in concerns raised by one of the country’s finest legal luminaries, Professor Michael Oquaye. In his submission, the political scientist cum legislator who has also authored various books on politics (and probably on the issue) prognosticates the proliferation of political parties in the country should the issue be rushed through. He argues that the country should not open the Pandora’s Box because it would have a snowballing effect that might be difficult to deal with. He contents that, ‘the impression should not be created that people can form political parties for personal gains, otherwise everybody will leave his/her job to form a political party for personal gains’, adding further that, ‘it is dangerous; it brings about political instability and also blurs the choices people make.’

Earlier, the paper has carried, in its issue of March 11, similar sentiments expressed by the Executive Officer of the Centre for Democratic Development [CDD], Prof Gyimah Boadi, who believes a carefully thought through considerations must precede the take-off of the funding, should the bill becomes a law. Though he accepts the fact that such a national move was essential for sustained multi-party democracy, Prof Boadi implores the country to exercise caution not to set up a chain reaction in which a percentage of tax revenue would be specifically attached to a long list of equally important public goods, citing the School Feeding Programme, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty [LEAP] and the Northern Development Fund as examples of such public goods.

All these expert counsels converge to drum home the exigency and caution that must be taken in dealing with the situation. This therefore calls for a comprehensive education on the issue of funding political parties, hence this article. But as much as I hold no grudge to the views expressed by the nice gentlemen and the million like-minded people replete with the country and article 21[1a] of the 1992 constitution [which guarantees freedom of speech and expression], I also beg to differ from the standpoint of the aforementioned experts, especially in the face of the arguments and or requirements advanced by the Proposed Draft Public Funding of Political Parties Bill, 2008.

There is no doubt that political parties are quintessential to the political and constitutional development of every country in the world; not excluding Ghana. They perform key roles in the formation of governments, grooming leaders at national and sub-national levels and holding governments accountable when in opposition. Their importance is much corroborated by articles 21(3) and 55(3) of the 1992 constitution of Ghana. Whereas the former enjoins all citizens to “have the right and freedom to form or join political parties and to participate in political activities subjected to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a free and democratic society and are consistent with this constitution”, the latter imposes, inter alia, heavy responsibilities on political parties to “shape the political will of the people, disseminate information on political ideas, social and economic programmes of a national character, and sponsor candidates for elections to any public office other than the district assembly or lower government unit.”. Yet in the face of all these responsibilities, parties in the country are among the most neglected of the political institutions of the state left to operate as if they are purely private organisations with no modicum of state interest in its establishment, maintenance, well being and extinction.

Unlike Ghana, in many countries around the globe, recognition of political parties is concretised by the provision of state financial support for the operation of these political parties. In Africa, mention could be made of countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mali. It is therefore sad to notice that the only sources of public financial support for political parties in the country come in two forms – indirect support by not subjecting the incomes of political parties to task and the direct support by the allocation of a few vehicles in election years to parties participating in the election through the Electoral Commission – which are below par. There is however the general feeling that the state should do more, especially in the face of the stringent financial reporting regime established by the Political Parties Act ,2008(Act 574),which creates cost for political parties and bars non-citizens from making financial contributions towards political parties in the country.

At the end if care is not taken, political parties might be taken as exclusive machines for achieving electoral victories without looking at the other angle that, poorly established and poorly maintained political parties produce poor quality leadership, both at the party level and at the government level. Parties must therefore be helped financially to function effectively as not only electoral machines but also vehicles for public education, national integration and skills acquisition during inter election years.

Again, it is worth re-echoing that the tendency of political parties springing up in the country with the funding of political parties is a near-impossibility. This is because of the procedures and principles governing the allocation of monies to political parties are documented. For instance, clause 6 of the Proposed Draft Public Funding of Political Parties Bill, 2008, operates on the principle of equality of all political parties registered under the appropriate law. The principles also specify conditions to be satisfied by a political party before it can access the fund as well as the purposes for which the monies may or may not be put.

Here, two main categories of financial assistance are provided, namely, reimbursement of electoral expenses and general administration. General administration is to account for 20% of the money available to the fund in any financial year (January 1 to December 31). This is to be allocated equally to all political parties provided they satisfy other requirements in the bill or any other law (including the Political Parties Act), for example, the obligation to file financial statements with the Electoral Commission and to maintain a certain measure of physical presence throughout the country. Section 9(c) of the Political Parties Act requires political parties to have branches in all the regions and is, in addition, organised in not less than two –thirds of the district in each region.

The electoral reimbursement accounts for the remainder 80%, broken into Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Provision is also made here for those contesting elections as independent candidates.

The clause contains two principles worth highlighting. Firstly, the threshold for being eligible for reimbursement of electoral expenses. The clause pegs this at 2% of the votes cast in the election which is being used as the basis for the allocation to the political parties .In other words, a political party must obtain at least 2% of the total votes actually cast (not of registered voters). From comparative data, the eligibility threshold ranges from 1% to 5%. The 2 % provided in clause 6 is therefore based on the result of 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 elections and also on the belief that the threshold should not be fixed based on the registered voters only but should also take into consideration the total national population represented by electoral officials.

The regulation of bye-elections is left to the Electoral Commission. Provision is made for candidates elected unopposed, because it is assumed they will have no electoral expenses. For this reason it must be understood that the philosophy underline the bill assumes that the election commences with the filing of nomination papers.

Currently the draft bill awaits a submission to the Attorney General with a request for him to sponsor it to Cabinet and Parliament. It is therefore my hope that the bill materialises into law to help strengthen political parties play their proper roles in growing the country’s multi-party democratic dispensation. Again, state funding of political parties is very necessary.

May 13, 2008 Posted by | Features, Uncategorized | Leave a comment