Information Minister, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, has charged the new leadership of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) to pay critical attention to the welfare and economic well-being of journalists in the country.
He said that would ensure that journalists were well placed to practice the profession without fear or favour and accorded the needed respect in society.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a three-day national executive retreat of the GJA at Obosomase in the Eastern Region, on Friday, the Minister said the current welfare and economic conditions of journalists in the country was a threat to press freedom and practice of the profession.
“A journalist who is not paid or who is poorly paid, a journalist who’s media house does not care about his welfare and who is left to the risk of his job is limited in how freely he or she can do sacrosanct Journalism.
“It must be of interest to you how the issues of welfare and the economic sustenance of journalists are addressed because this will help in ensuring that journalists are better placed and are respected in our service to the republic,” he said.
The retreat, organised by the national executive of the GJA, is to among other things, afford the new leadership an opportunity to brainstorm over policies and programmes that would strengthen the Association and empower members.
High on the agenda are the welfare of journalists and press freedom.
It is being held under the theme: “Building Legacies in Welfare, Professionalism and Rebranding to Reposition GJA for a Better Future.”
In attendance were Mr George Sarpong, Executive Secretary, National Media Commission, Mr Ransford Tettey, a former GJA President, Mr Kwesi Pratt, Managing Director, Insight Newspaper, some current and former executive members of GJA and other stakeholders.
A recent world press freedom index prepared by the Reporters Without Borders showed that the most significant variable weakening press freedom in Ghana is the poor economic state of many media houses and media practitioners.
Mr Nkrumah said Journalism and the association of journalists had long played important role in the life of the nation, including the pre-independence era.
“The founding fathers of our nation may not have achieved as much as they did if they had not had the compliment of strong newspapers and strong journalists of their day to help us to advance their cause,” the Minister noted.
However, he said, over the years, with the growth of the economy and governance due to the fourth republican dispensation, media outlets had also increased, bringing with it more challenges and expectations.
Notable among them were the welfare of journalists, the safety of journalists, the economic conditions of journalists and the capacity and quality of work of journalists as well as the image and functioning of the GJA.
Mr Nkrumah said such challenges must be of an immense interest to the new leadership as they sought to restore the Association to its lost glory.
He urged them to work hard to make the Association more attractive and appealing to other media practitioners, adding that they must preserve the quality of and respect for Journalism.
“I think that it’s equally important how well you follow up on incidents of attacks on journalists. If you the umbrella body go to bed when your members are attacked by state or non-state actors, then the safety of journalists may be compromised,” he added.
Mr Albert Kwabena Dwumfour, President of the GJA, said the current leadership of the Association was determined to leave a legacy despite the numerous challenges bedeviling the profession.
He urged all media practitioners to rally behind the new administration, both at the national and regional levels, to deliver the results that would inure to the collective benefits of everyone.
“…Of particular importance to me, Mr Chairman is the need for all executives countrywide to be united to endeavour to build consensus on the way forward for this Association, in view of the daunting tasks of rebuilding the one-time vibrant Association into a strong and indispensable force in the country,” he said.
Dr Paul Kofi Fynn, Chancellor, Wisconsin University, admonished journalists to always be guided by the ethics of the profession, including seeking the truth about stories before publication.