“There can be no real Press Freedom unless journalists are paid well”

A Senior Lecturer in Journalism and Communications Studies at the African University College of Communications (AUCC), Mr Samuel Ato Afful, has cautioned that efforts to “liberate” the African media will amount to nothing if no real workable solutions are found to the poor remunerations of the continent’s journalists.

Speaking on the essence of the World Press Freedom Day celebrations, Mr Afful, said he is of the firm conviction that “until a person is financially independent, he/she cannot exercise his/her freedoms as deserved. So let’s liberate the Ghanaian Journalist by paying him/her well”.

The 2018 World Press Freedom Day, being the 25th celebration since inception, will be led by UNESCO. The main event, jointly organized by UNESCO and the Government of the Republic of Ghana, will take place in Accra, Ghana on 2 – 3 May. This year’s global theme is ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law’.

Ato Afful, who is also the Director of Radio Discovery, AUCC’s campus radio station, believes the motive behind the theme for the celebrations may well become another talk shop if stakeholders and industry players do not take steps to make the total welfare of the journalist, a priority.

“Mainstream journalism is gradually becoming unattractive to the young, vibrant and talented prospective journalist in Ghana. Why? It’s simple. They have been told, and rightly so, that Journalism doesn’t pay. This is very worrying, and as a nation we ought to be very concerned”.

“We in the academia, have expressed concerns over the years about how unethical some journalists are in this country. But, we forget that, a hungry man is likely to sell his birthright so that he can stay alive and fight for his life”.

Having worked at Choice FM, YFM and TV3 Limited as Senior News Editor, General Manager and Online News Editor, all in senior management positions, Mr Afful says he understands and appreciates how vulnerable journalists and editors could become if they have financial challenges.

He explains that, the adage “he who pays the piper dictates the tune” was not coined from nothing, saying “Once a person is at the crossroads where he is not well paid, and possibly not appreciated by his superiors, and perhaps not even sure of opportunities for growth in his profession, it will take a person of very high moral standards and values to remain very independent, and not fall for any trappings of financial temptations to alter news stories and headlines”.

The Communications Specialist believes the Ghana Journalists Association could liaise with the other professional and state institutions such as the National Media Commission, Sports Writers Association, etc to initiate discussions on “doing something about the salaries of the Ghanaian journalist”.

“It is sad for me that, a lot of young people I come acorss, tell me they only see journalism as a stepping stone in their professional life. They have been told that journalism doesn’t pay. Perhaps they have not been misinformed because the evidence is clear”.

Mr Afful emphasized with worry that the number of students specializing in the Journalism major in the Bachelor of Arts, Communication classes, have reduced drastically across board in all the major journalism training institutions in the country.

“Students prefer to major in Public Relations or Strategic Communication- yet they find themselves in newsrooms after graduation. There is a disconnect and a deficit somewhere, and someone must find a solution to this development”.

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