Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Media Convention
“The 2020 Election: The Role of the Media in Promoting Civility and Discernment in the Political Discourse”
Remarks by Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan
Ghana International Press Center
Tuesday, March 10, 2020 at 10:00AM
Thank you, Master of Ceremonies, Extraordinaire.
National Media Commission Chairperson;
Chair for the event and Director of Electoral Services at the Electoral Commission;
Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) President;
Chief Director of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
All protocols observed:
Good Morning. I’m delighted to be here this morning at the opening ceremony of the Ghana Journalists Association’s (GJA) media convention. I’m also pleased to be joined by my husband John Sullivan, also a member of the inky fraternity, who even taught at GIJ in the 1998-1999 school year.
Special thanks to GJA President Affail Monney and his dedicated executive board for making this event possible.
As we approach election season in both our countries, events such as these media conventions are invaluable, where media practitioners, civil society actors, and government entities gather and discuss the role of media in the democratic process.
The U.S. Embassy is a steadfast partner in supporting and participating in such initiatives. In fact, we’ve sponsored GJA conventions ahead of the past three general elections. As the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said, “a free and independent media is indispensable to a vibrant, functioning democracy.”
An independent media committed to responsible, fact-based journalism is a key pillar for democracies. With a free and responsible press, citizens are more informed to provide input into decision-making, and can better hold their political leaders accountable. In short, democracy cannot survive without a free and responsible press.
Both our nations must be vigilant in maintaining a strong corps of journalists, one that is respected, protected, and held accountable itself. As our late friend Komla Dumor, of BBC and Joy FM fame, put it: “There is only one standard – a global standard.” All of us must be mindful that technology offers us unprecedented opportunities to expand media freedoms.
However, information can also be distorted, and fictions presented as facts, by actors with ill intentions, to sow confusion and amplify destructive partisanship. Disinformation campaigns are not a new phenomenon, but continue today on an unprecedented scale, via the internet and social media, which deliver reports around the globe in the blink of an eye, in many cases, with no editorial oversight, particularly over the “click-bait” headlines.
I have seen countless stories that are, for the most part, accurate, but distorted by a misleading headline. As Congolese singer Kofi Olomide put it: Lies take the elevator; the truth takes the stairs, but arrives eventually.
In 2020, the role of the journalist has never been so crucial, to solid, well-sourced facts, along with accurate headlines, as human beings’ shortened attention spans – and radio and television media roundups – mean many people never get beyond the headline. Just say no to konkonsa!
A free and responsible press requires a group effort, and when individuals, organizations, and governments come together to preserve this standard, everyone benefits.
This calls to mind the Akan adinkra symbol, TI KORO NKO AGYINA “One head cannot hold council.” The U.S. Embassy jumped at the chance to partner again with GJA this year in a series of media conventions across the country. These conventions will bring journalists and other civil society representatives face-to-face with government officials whose job it is to administer free and fair elections and maintain the integrity of the electoral process. Together, participants will brainstorm about ways the media can set the stage for fact-based, spirited-yet-civil debate as Ghana gears up for the 2020 elections. We are proud to partner with GJA in making this initiative a reality.
Throughout the years, GJA has been engaged and at the table for key policy decisions from the long-awaited passing of the Right to Information Law to the recent Framework for the National Coordinating Mechanism on Safe and Responsible Journalism in Ghana. GJA’s presence is constant, effective, and reassuring, giving voice to journalists’ concerns and needs.
With each year, the U.S. Embassy’s relationship with GJA has grown from strength to strength. We’ve worked with the GJA’s national and regional bodies on several initiatives, and look forward to the four other, inclusive conventions. I would be remiss to close without acknowledging the great contributions of our Public Affairs team and Naomi Mattos, our Information Officer.
I wish you a productive convention here in Accra. Thank you for your kind attention.