Mr Rockson Ayine Bukari, the Upper East Regional Minister, on Wednesday said the government was committed to pass the Right to Information (RTI) Bill into law to deepen the democratic dispensation of the country through transparency and accountability.
He said the law would ensure that the media had easy access to information from public institutions that would enable them hold duty bearers accountable for actions that were detrimental to the growth of the nation.
The Regional Minister was speaking in Bolgatanga at the National Media Festival organized by The Press Foundation (TPF) to celebrate media personalities who hail from the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.
It was to encourage the media practitioners working in the three regions to contribute significantly to the development of those regions.
The Regional Minister who described the media as “the wise men” said the influence of their works in the development agenda of the nation could not be measured and called for deeper engagement between government and the media to achieve accelerated development.
He said mass communication continued to empower communities and citizens through the various media channels to be abreast with national issues and make decisions that enhance development.
He added “knowledge they say is power and it is this power that citizens can hold duty bearers at all levels accountable to and take steps to improve their societies. In recent times the media has moved to setting the agenda and there is no doubt majority of the citizens make decisions based on information from the air, newspapers, internet, editorial notes commentaries and heated debates or discussions. These have informed the position of many Ghanaians on national issues.”
Mr Bukari charged the journalists in the three regions to change the common perception held by people that “all is bad here” because the regions were not as bad as people outside the regions perceived them”.
“The major role of the media is to change the notion of citizens from poverty and helplessness to a region of seen opportunities through challenges,” he said.
Pledging the support of government to the Upper East Region journalists, the Regional Minister urged them to make paradigm shift from solely reporting of events to educating and sensitizing the underprivileged communities particularly Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) on their rights and responsibilities and to involve them in the development processes.
He said media-communities engagements would unearth various cultural beliefs and practices that hindered development for appropriate institutions to take actions.
Expressing his gratitude to the organizers of the programme and the renowned journalists for their visit to the Region, the Minister appealed to the media to assist to educate land owners to release their lands for investments as well as network effectively to confront social challenges in the three regions.
Welcoming the participants, the Upper East Regional Chairman of the Ghana Journalists Association, (GJA) Mr Eric Kwadjo Amoh called on journalists to focus on issues that would bring about poverty reduction, improved education and expose the urgent needs of the people for the appropriate agencies to address them.
Reverend Eastwood Anaba, Founder of the Eastwood Anaba Ministries, emphasized on the need for duty bearers to recognize that the Northern, Upper East and the Upper West Regions were separate regions, each with its own unique potentials and needs and therefore clustering them as one and calling them three northing regions was wrong.
He called on government, duty bearers and media practitioners to avoid merging the three regions as one, because it marginalized the attention and benefits the three regions could access to develop their areas.
Mr Manase Azuure charged Journalists not to sacrum to pressure in pursuing wrong in society and said investigative journalism was not the preserve of some individuals but the collective work that needed networking to succeed, and urged Journalists in the three regions to diverse the news reporting to include ones that would challenge duty bearers to do the right things.
Mr Anas Aremeyaw Anas, the award winning undercover journalist urged journalists in the three regions to go beyond routine reporting to unearthing issues that would propel development.
He said undercover reporting would put duty bearers on their toes to enhance development within the three regions, because it was an ideal method in the journalism profession that could expose ills such as corruption, mismanagement of funds and abuse of human rights in society.