The Head of the Department of Media Studies at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), Dr Ebo Afful, has called for the active involvement of the media in the formulation of government policies to ensure the successful implementation of the policies.
He said it was through the media that citizenry would be able to learn much about how government policies would affect them, a process that would help the government to gain feedback on their policies and programmes prior to their implementation.
“Today, the media are always kept out when policies of the government are being formulated. They are only called in when formulated policies are being implemented and when there are problems then we blame the media,” he stated.
Speaking at a dialogue with the media in Accra last Sunday, Dr Afful said: “Journalists are most needed when they are formulating the policies so that the media will engage the citizens for them to express their views with regard to the kind of policy the government will want to formulate.
“And it is at the point that problems with regard to the policies will be highlighted and that will inform the kind of policy we will finally formulate and this is a critical point that we should all take into consideration,” he stated.
Organised by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, the dialogue was held on the theme: “Economic Revitalisation amid COVID-19 pandemic: The media agenda.”
It brought together journalists and other stakeholders to discuss ways to deepen their participation in the public policy-making process.
The participants also discussed the role the media could play in promoting democracy to foster public debate and engagement, as well as act as a public watchdog over abuses of power, among others.
Dr Afful said the media, in supporting the government’s policies, should be telling stories by expressing their views and comments on issues as well as engaging in intellectual analysis of policies.
“Now, journalists should not be scared sharing their views on issues, being critical on policies formulated by the government or by the political class, and telling stories that will move and organise people as well as teach people,” he said.
A lecturer at the Department of Communication Studies of the University of Ghana, Legon, Dr Emeka Lucky Umejei, who spoke on the role of the press in democracy, urged the press to play their watchdog role effectively in order to hold the political elite accountable.
“If the government does something that is very good such as the free SHS policy, the media will have no choice but to report it but they must hold leadership to account without fear or favour, if they do something wrong,” he said.
Time for change
Responding to the concern about the non-involvement of the media in state policy formulation, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said the Constitution obligated the President, with the assistance from appointee ministers, to formulate policies about governance.
Unfortunately, he said, Parliament was also not involved in such policy formulation.
The challenge, he said, placed the two bodies the media and Parliament— in less informed position to understand and dissect issues in order to espouse policies for the understanding of the people.