NEWS COMMENTARY ON THE NEED FOR MEDIA HOUSES TO ONLY USE PROFESSIONALS IN DISCUSSING ISSUES RELATING TO COVID-19 IN THE COUNTRY AND NOT POLITICIANS.
The Minister for Information Kojo Oppong Nkrumah at one of the Ministry’s regular media briefings on the update of the Coronavirus pandemic called on media houses in the country to use health professionals and experts in discussing issues on the emergence, the spread and other related matters on the novel coronavirus and not political party and social commentators who do not have adequate knowledge on the disease. This is to avert a possible situation of misinforming the populace and also throwing such an important health issue into the political arena rather than helping to find lasting solution to the spread of the pandemic.
The Minister’s call is so timely, cogent and very important not only because the disease would be used as a political football, but importantly, the core matter would vehemently be politicized to an extent where the focus on the fight would be sharply shifted to the usual unpleasant political games played with almost everything in the country.
It is also timely and important, because, at this material time, and for once, Ghanaians need concentration, the zeal, enthusiasm, as well as the fortitude to fight COVID-19. The issue at stake is not about who is right or who is wrong. Neither is it about who is doing what or who could have done better. It is rather about a concerted effort by all and sundry to help Ghana come out of this national calamity.
As the Minister rightly put it, what the nation needs now is effective education that would help the citizens to cautiously adhere to safety precautions and laid down protocols to ensure a successful fight against the pandemic which has taken the entire world ‘hostage’.
Most Ghanaians arguably would agree with the Minister that for now, the political and social commentators, “who know everything about anything” must give way to the professionals. There is a wrong impression among media owners and managers that Ghanaians are highly enthused about political discussion in the media, especially on radio and television.
There is also a school of thought that this is a myth but media houses continue to politicize almost everything under the sun in this country.
In real journalism, real facts are the most important and not any other. In their book, “The Elements of Journalism” Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel reckon that, “Good decision-making depends on people having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context. Journalism does not pursue truth in an absolute or philosophical sense, but in a capacity that is more down to earth.”. “Journalistic truth” surpasses all forms of truth in the media. This is because it is the journalist’s authentic source that makes the news. All others are commentary.
When the Ghanaian journalist puts the experts and the professionals behind the microphones and perhaps speak to the citizens one-on-one, a huge impart is achieved. The journalist then through the health experts convey a fair and reliable information so the people will understand the problem facing the country. Kudos to the tens of radio and TV stations that have already gone ahead with the call by the Minister.
Some broadcasting facilities in the country especially in Accra have devoted huge chunk of airtime to the discussion of the disease, thus getting people to clearly understand the origin, control and effect of the disease on mankind. They have also helped in providing the citizenry with appropriate safety procedures and health protocols to guide people in the management and control of the virus. Such media houses have also relayed positive feedback to the authorities to fuse into the national action plan to control the spread of the diseases.
This said and done, the media houses are duty bound to be highly circumspect in the handling of information on the COVID-19. Sources of all information, passed on to the public must be genuine, authentic, clear without ambiguity, direct and timely. May the contributions of the media lead to a successful fight against our common enemy, COVID-19.
BY NANA SIFA TWUM, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT