That’s my opinion: The media and the magpie syndrome

Source: Ghana |
Date: 13th-march-2018 Time:  1:40:03 am

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- Until the lions have their own historians the tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter!

My topic today [Monday, March 12, 2018] is ‘The Media and the Magpie Syndrome’.

We in the media, with all our sins, have become one of the most trusted institutions in Ghana; the first point of call for many people. That is, while in other countries people dial 999 or 911, we in Ghana call radio stations to report an emergency.

I am sure I have told you this before but I will repeat it: At Adabraka, next to the Police Station, is Sethi Tower and on top of this tower is a radio station. One morning, right in front of the police station and across the street, lay a dead body – directly opposite the police station. Folks, the number of people who climbed the long flight of stairs to the radio station to report that there was a dead body lying on the street was just mind-boggling!

They didn’t go the police. They came to the radio station. 

It is undeniable that the media, clearly, has played a pivotal role in the affairs of this country and continues to do so.

The Akans have a proverb that goes like this: anoma kokone kone ƆkƆ ensu atifi kƆ hunu no, na wa ba afou be bisa se whana na asei ensu no.

‘Anomaa kokone’ is the magpie, a black and white bird with a long tale. The proverb literally translates as, the magpie flies upstream to wash itself and muddy the stream, and quickly flies downstream to ask who muddied the water. This proverb will soon make sense.

The level of indiscipline in Ghana has reached alarming proportions. From the top hierarchy right down to the bottom. All 30 million of us are guilty.

I am not going to focus on indiscipline today. We have treated this topic many times in the past. Today I want to talk about the double-standard of the media in Ghana.

You see, humans all over the world will try to find the loophole in any system. For instance, in the UK drivers have noticed that the speed cameras give them a 10% leeway, so if the speed limit is 70 mph they know they will not be caught if they do say 77 mph. But they know they will be caught if they hit 78 mph.

Smart criminals too know that in order that they don’t get long sentences when they are caught, the worst weapon they should carry is a screwdriver when intend to break into a house – or even if they intend to commit a more severe crime than the break-in. This is because when a criminal is caught with a screwdriver, he will be charged for a just breaking in, not armed robbery, which carries a more sentence than a break in.

There have been many opportunities in Ghana’s history where we could have instilled a culture of sanity and discipline and pass these on the next generation, but somehow we missed all these opportunities.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity we missed was the 19 years under former President Jerry John Rawlings who had a strong hold on the nation. He could put us to sleep at 6 pm and wake us up at 6 am.

During the Rawlings era, Salifu Amankwa ensured that Kwame Nkrumah Circle was not chaotic as it is today. For the young ones who never meet him, this man ensured that you don’t drop a litter at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle. There was no jaywalking, no hawking.  You could only cross the street at the designated places. There was order!  The grass was green and the walls were not engulfed by posters.

Well maintained discipline at the central business district until an alleged case of murder. It is alleged that a man flouted his rules and he assaulted him, resulting in the death.

However when PNDC changed to NDC, and when the floodgates were open for multiparty democracy, everything changed. I think this started the era of ‘pampering citizens’ because parties needed the votes of citizens.

Because the governments needed the vote of citizens, they need not be too hard. And if you are not hard, then true to our human nature, we stretch the boundary lines. We break all the rules. This is what has landed us here; where an individual or individuals can put a pollution-causing machine in a river that is close to a dam that supplies drinking water to thousands of people.

And when the polluter is asked to stop, he has the effrontery to threaten the state that he will become an armed robber when he loses his ‘job’ of polluting the drinking water. Wow!

Some women too will take up half of the road and turn it into a refuse dump and a market, and if you attempt to clear them they will threaten to strip naked and not vote for you.

Folks, on August 1st, 2017 Operation Vanguard was launched to curb the menace of galamsey. It is no mean feat to clear armed illegal miners, but our soldiers took up the task. The first batch of illegal miners who tried to fight the soldiers were defeated so others who had also planned to attack the soldiers retreated. Good, but this where the magpie proverb comes in.

We in the media have started to ask questions that seem to suggest that our support for ‘no galamsey’ is changing. The Operation Vanguard team is being criticized for shooting to kill illegal miners. Mind you, sometimes these illegal miners are armed.

It does not end there. 

Again when news of the torching of some 10 excavators broke, we criticized authorities again. We suddenly started supporting the ‘poor miners’, arguing that their source of livelihood has been destroyed.

The media did not care that our waters were being poisoned and polluted with impunity. But we care for the destruction of the livelihood of lawbreakers.

Folks, there should be a shock in the system to put the fear of God in us; to cause us to draw the line between sanity and indiscipline. But if anytime a firm action is taken, we the media jump in to support the so-called vulnerable, how can we instil discipline.

Folks, for a long time I have wondered why right in front of the Nima Police Station there is a furniture shop and other shops. I mean right in front of the post of a law enforcement agency, people have set up shops made of ugly tables, dilapidated containers and rotten wooden kiosks. I have always wondered.

Then Nana Akufo-Addo becomes President and I hear it is a security zone so these shops should close. Folks, had this same area – close to the Nima Police Station – not been a security zone all along?

The media always start by crusading against a vice and then turn around and attack the hand stopping the vice – anomaa kokone kone.

But it gets worse. 

Because people fear the media, they can’t speak against their double standards for fear of a media trial.

Should we in the media, in the name of human rights, allow nonsense? 

I believe the media should know better and rally support for the law, instead of rallying support for the woman who is claiming to be poor but wears an expensive, imported wig and begging the President to allow her to break the law.

- That’s My Opinion broadcasts on Joy 99.7 FM on Mondays, shortly after Newsnight. The programme is hosted by Nana Ansah Kwao IV.

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