Aspiring President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Gayheart Mensah has waded into the debate about the future location of the GJA’s Press Center stemming from an unsigned draft Memoradum of Understanding (MoU) regarding the matter.
The said MoU, intended to be between the Ministry of Information, on one hand, and the GJA, National Media Commission (NMC) and the Right to Information Commission (RTIC) on the other, proposes that all three organizations be housed in one building sponsored by government.
But Gayheart Mensah has stated strongly that cannot make the mistake of ceding the Press Center to NMC or any state structure, for that matter.
He has therefore urged the GJA in particularly tread cautiously in their attempt to cede the Press Center to NMC.
In a statement he said “My attention has been drawn to a draft, unsigned MOU, with the Ministry of Information, the GJA NMC and RTIC as the intended signatories. At the center of the MOU is the future of our Press Center. I pray that the MOU remains a draft and unsigned for a while.”
He added that “This is because the content of the MOU has far-reaching implications for the GJA and could define the future of our association in various respects. It therefore needs to be thoroughly and extensively discussed.”
Gayheart Mensah, who has been a member of GJA for 33 years, stated that for those who are relatively new to the GJA, the Press Center is what he characterizes as “the GJA’s long walk to freedom”, adding that it has been a tortuous journey with which he has been associated – from the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) to the Mortuary Road, Kokomlemle, and then to the bold intercessions by H.E. Kabral Blay Amihere and Mrs. Gifty Affenyi Dadzie, which eventually found it where it is today, thanks to President J. A. Kufuor.
“The Press Center, as it is set out now, represents the very soul and identity of journalism in this country,” he said. “Since Mrs. Affenyi Dadzie secured the facility for us, it has not seen any significant addition or improvement. Indeed, it is deteriorating. That cannot continue. We definitely need a facelift.”
He however noted that the terms in the unsigned draft MOU are very worrying, saying that the expectation that journalists “surrender” the Press Center to the Ministry of Information for the construction of an office must be of concern to all journalists.
“Even more worrying is the fact that per the MOU, the GJA is the institution that made such a proposal to government. As if these are not disconcerting enough, the GJA is expected to cede ownership of the Press Center to the NMC, which would hold ownership on behalf of the government. This means that when the office is constructed on our facility, we will become tenants (in our own house) to the NMC,” he noted.
Gayheart Mensah said he agrees in principle on the need for a facelift for the Press Center, but is apprehensive about the terms spelt out in the draft MOU.
He therefore has some advise for the GJA on the matter.
- Any effort at redeveloping the Press Center must go through the required due process for approval. It should be thoroughly discussed at the various levels and structures of the GJA, both formal and informal, before a firm decision is made. Besides, this is a move that must be ratified by an AGM of the GJA. Such an enterprise cannot proceed without an extensive stakeholder engagement.
- When it comes to redeveloping the Press Center, we need to have a few options so we could settle on the one that offers the GJA the best, in terms of value for money. Until we know what other possibilities exist, we cannot be sure if we are getting a good deal or not.
- Efforts at a decision which is not rooted in extensive consultations as the current process seems to suggest, do not help. Of particular note is the absence of a meeting of the GJA national executives or the National Executive Council (NEC) to consider this issue of a draft or proposal.
- Following from the above, we certainly do not have any executives at this point in time, given that the tenure of the last executives elapsed one year ago and elections are yet to be held. Such a decision therefore cannot be purported to have been made by the GJA executives.
- As an expansion on the above point, it will help to ensure the involvement of the three GJA presidential aspirants in any decisions of the association from this point going forward, particularly because we legally do not have executives, and also because one of the three presidential aspirants will have to carry on from where we are at the moment. Involving them therefore will facilitate a smooth transition.
- To avoid any further litigation within our association, we must hold on to this process for now. The issue of redevelopment of the Press Center is neither life threatening nor an emergency. The emergency we have today is to hold the general elections as quickly as possible. The emergency we have today is to remove the army of fraudulently registered non-journalists on the GJA’s list of members in good standing, so we could have credible elections, in which one wins or loses fairly.
These, I am persuaded, are our emergencies of the moment. Let us focus on these and thread cautiously with regard to the draft MOU on the Press Center’s redevelopment.