Former President, Mr. John Kufour is a remarkably good man; when I was in graduate school some 18 years ago, I wrote glowing tributes/articles in my school’s magazine praising his economic and financial policies. To tell you the truth, I was in awe of the man.
While in office, Mr. Kufuour did a lot to improve the finances of Ghanaians; the economy unlike what we have today, was booming; the cedi was a currency you could point to with a lot of pride. For all of that he will be fondly remembered.
In retirement, the former president hasn’t retreated from the national scene. He continues to weigh in on important issues. Most of his remarks have been genuine and from the heart.
However, a recent observation by Mr. Kufuour on the role of journalists, had me scratching my head, my bald head that is.
At a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Ghana Journalists Association in Accra last week, the former president called for journalists to be licensed to curb what he described as the wanton misuse of their new-found power.
He reasoned that some unscrupulous members of the profession are flagrantly using the power of the media to variously intimidate, mislead, disrespect, blackmail, defame and castigate individuals and authorities.
I beg to differ, Mr. President. Licensing journalists would be a wrong move. In fact, it would be anathema to the ethics and regulations that guide the profession.
What is more, requiring that reporters acquire a license to practice their craft will be tantamount to putting them in a straitjacket, in a regulatory confinement that will hamper and curtail their freedom to gather and disseminate information without prejudice.
Come to think of it, licensing journalists will mean subjecting them to the whims and caprices of a few members of a licensing board with the free rein to determine who becomes a reporter or not.
Then there are the invariable licensing fees and qualifying exams journalism graduates will to contend with once they come out of school. Ultimately, they will be at the mercy of the board.
Mr. Kufour may have meant well, but his proposal, just doesn’t cut it. I find it difficult to accept the former president’s premise, his argument that journalists intimidate, harass, disrespect, defame and blackmail individuals and authorities.
The opposite is true. Journalists have been intimidated, killed and roundly harassed by state institutions, politicians, and the general public.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot that journalists must do to increase public trust and confidence in their profession. The fact remains that there are some reporters who have dragged the reputation of the profession into the mud by virtue of their lack of objectivity and fairness, marred by their close alliance with political kingmakers.
I still admire Mr. Kufour and will always support him. I just wish he had raised the issue of the poor salaries and pitiful benefits doled out to reporters at the hundreds of media organizations around the country.
This is an important issue that no one wants to discuss. But it warrants attention if we want to incentivize journalists and get them to do their jobs. Licensing them will be wrongheaded and poor public policy.