Twenty journalists from some media organizations in Ghana have been selected to undergo a five-month mentoring to combat COVID-19 related misinformation under the “Mobilizing Media to Fighting COVID-19 (MMFC) project” by Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), a Canada-based charity organization.
The project will have the journalists selected through a Call for Pitches from all the sixteen regions of Ghana undergo series of training under two media trainers with knowledge on human rights reporting, gender sensitive writing, fact-checking among others.
The two Mentors for the project are; Madam Zubaida Afua Mabuno Ismail, a Media Trainer and Human Rights Activist and Mrs. Linda Asante-Agyei, Vice President of the Ghana Journalists Association.
Speaking at a two day hybrid training in the Eastern Region, the President of the Ghana Journalists Association, Mr. Affail Monney recounted memories of censorship of the media during the military regime of former President Jerry John Rawlings.
“It was a luxury to do stories without sense” at a time when “freedom of speech was determined by the politician but for people who put their lives on the line to defend others”.
He added that the democratic dispensation has offered journalists the impetus to practice their trade without fear or favour, which he said should be enough incentive to the mentees to increase their coverage of human rights issues.
Mr. Monney maintained Ghanaian journalists mandated with the role of watching over the interest of the country, which includes how the country’s resources are put into use, have now become “lame dogs’ instead of “watchdogs”.
“We have become lame dogs instead of watchdogs. We need to go back to the basics and demand accountability from our politicians. Once a promise is made, you get the politician to match his promise with his action”.
Zubaida Afua Mabuno Ismail stressed that, the Government of Ghana’s introduction of six new taxes including COVID-19 health levy composed of a one percentage point increase in the national health insurance levy (increased to 3.5% from 2.5%) and a one percentage point increase in the flat rate of value added tax (VAT) (increased to 4% from 3% while citizens are still recovering from the negative impact of the pandemic is evidence that Ghana needs human rights journalists to be the voices of the citizenry.
“When efforts are being made by governments in other countries to cushion their citizens, Ghanaians are slapped with six new taxes and what did we do? This is a human right issue. We discussed it for few days and moved to the next story. We should be following this and demanding government’s obligation towards its citizens in the face of crisis”.
At a time when JHR believes there is much fake news and misinformation which they termed as “infodemic”, these selected journalists across the country are trained to report objectively and accurately and to specifically put a spotlight on human rights.
Mrs. Asante-Agyei said the media play important role in the protection of human rights of citizens in the country serving as the voice of the voiceless.
She said journalists must expose human rights violations and make sure that justice is served affected victims while urging the mentees to be guided by the code of ethics of the profession.
“As human rights journalists, let us report accurately and objectively to ensure that governments and individuals are accountable to their actions. This will make the country a better place to live in”, she said.
The 2019 GJA Female Journalist of the Year, Madam Regina Asamoah described the training as “very helpful and very educative.
“It is a quick reminder that the stories that affect our very existence as human beings, we will have to put much emphasis on them and redirect our focus to human right stories”.
The Editor of Atinka TV/FM acknowledged the diverse thoughts shared by all mentees “it was a good one especially the debate that ensued about gender issues”.
“Gender issues are not women issues, gender issues are human issues and so you can’t talk about human rights and exclude the whole conversation about gender issues”.
Since 2002, Journalists for Human Rights have worked around the world to train and engage local journalists, media outlets, civil society organizations and other relevant stakeholders to strengthen and improve human rights coverage in local contexts.
It has its presence in 29 countries across the world and has trained 15,650 journalists so far, reaching some 65million audience ensuring that everyone is aware of their human rights.
By: Eredon Gien Joseph and Collins Kwabena Nsiah|www.zamireports.com|Eastern Region.