Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Sulemana Braimah has described as unfortunate, allegation by President Akufo-Addo that JoyFM has been waging a campaign against his government’s flagship Free Senior High Schools (SHS) policy.
Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, in the course of last week, offered headteachers, teachers, parents, students and the Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Education Service, an opportunity to discuss challenges being faced in the implementation of the government’s flagship programme, free SHS.
Among the challenges confronting the free SHS programme that were mentioned are; lack of accommodation facilities resulting in students sleeping on the floor, congestion in classrooms, inconvenience relating to erratic schedules for the double-track system, poor quality of food served to students, little attention to the end of semester examinations and minimal contact hours.
However, speaking at a ceremony at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) on Saturday, May 29, President Akufo-Addo stated that he was under the impression that Free SHS was approved by everyone including the political parties until he learnt about discussions on the radio station which according to him, amounted to a campaign against the policy.
“A radio station is currently running a campaign against Free SHS. During the last election, I got the impression that Free SHS was endorsed by all parties and all that was needed to do was keep improving it. Would a spirited defence of Frees SHS constitute an attack on press freedom? I wonder.”
Describing his remarks as unfortunate, Sulemana Braimah is of the view that, the President’s assertion gives credence to the perception about the culture of silence.
The role of media practitioners according to him, can be compromised if media houses are restricted from criticizing and holding government accountable.
“If a media house is discussing a policy initiative of the government and the President says that amounts to waging a campaign against the policy, what then happens is that, other media houses are going to be silent, those who wouldn’t be silent may have to embrace the policy and find voices of support and endorsement and chorus of praise-singing.
“I think this doesn’t help, especially when it comes from no less a person than the President himself. I think this is unfortunate,” he emphasised.
Meanwhile, reacting to concerns of ‘culture of silence’, President Akufo-Addo opined that criticising the works of media practitioners is not an attack on press freedom.
“There seems to be an emerging narrative which is being profited by some in Ghana that critiquing the work of journalists constitutes an attack on media freedom. That certainly cannot be described as an attack on media freedom. Having the freedom to criticize and oppose should also mean that the media is ready to accept and work with criticisms of their work by the citizenry or officials.
“That for me is one of the surest ways of improving the public discourse and we should all strive towards realising this,” he said.