On Thursday, October 4, 2018, Joy News screened a documentary titled ‘Who Killed the Judges?’
The movie attempted, disappointingly, to explore what happened to the ‘Martyrs of the Rule of Law” as they are now called. It also unsuccessfully and pathetically tried to answer the question: ‘Who ordered the death of the judges?’
It would be purely unthinkable for any rational person to justify the crude murder of Justice Fred Poku Sarkodee, Justice Cecilia Koranteng-Addow and Justice Kwadwo Agyei Agyepong by members of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC). These men and woman deserve to be remembered for choosing the side of rule of law and freedom of Ghanaians against the desires of some blood-thirsty gun-wielding men.
Let’s observe a minute silence for them…May their souls rest in peace!
But must the flesh of the living be singed by the work of the media in the name of retelling history?
The media work is a discretionary one. It revolves around the exercise of discretion. There’s no laid down rules or procedure anywhere. Selecting which news item to project to the public, choosing which statement from two competing parties to focus on and deciding what is in the interest of the nation are matters of discretion. And for several decades, we have sat back and watched on as the media exercise that power albeit grave challenges.
But discretion in itself is abusive if it is not exercised consciously and cautiously. This places some responsibility on the shoulders of the one that exercises it. And I couldn’t agree more with Australian ethicist Will Barret when he said persons with moral responsibility must “assume a capacity for making rational decisions.”
“Moral responsibility assumes a capacity for making rational decisions, which in turn justifies holding moral agents accountable for their actions. Given that moral agency entails responsibility, in that autonomous rational agents, are in principle capable of responding to moral reasons, accountability is a necessary feature of morality.”
I submit that the filmmakers were blind to their moral responsibility leading to their failure to hold themselves accountable during the production. A bit of introspection would have been extremely valuable. They would have asked themselves these three key questions if they had done the needful.
(a) Is the subject matter of the movie in the best interest of our nation at this material moment?
(b) Do we need to resurrect the hurts and pains of the families who lost their loved ones in the hands of some perverts?
(c) Must we continue to pass the bowl of blame around after a grueling reconciliation exercise?
Events in the past have a deep impact on a country’s present and define its future. They shape the nature of its institutions, the way its citizens think about the world and their role in it and can alter completely their behaviours and relationships with other groups. Therefore, any attempt to recall particularly negative events must be done with care, not carelessness. And I think the Joy News film falls in the category of the latter.
I have heard some respectable people defend the work done by Joy News although they agree it could have been left to history because of the highly emotional National Reconciliation exercise, which ended with the “forgiveness of sins” committed by some soldiers and civilians in the name of a baseless revolution.
Other spineless folks are quick to recite by rot works done by CNN, BBC, and Aljazeera among others to justify the production by Joy News. What has the grass got in common with the cow? These people failed to appreciate what makes those societies and their people thick from ours. What I will tell them is: Know your history.
Africa is surely a continent of the imaginable and the unimaginable. This is a place where the least provocation could spawn decades of wars and conflicts, leading to the death of hundreds of people and destruction of properties. Everything is possible here.
A statement by Edmund Burke in Revolution in France is instructive here. He said: “People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.” And I want to repeat to those people: Go back and learn who we are as Africans and Ghanaians.
I am not by this statement suggesting we can’t get to where the nations of the West are and have achieved for themselves. In fact, I don’t believe in getting to where they are rather we need to get to where we want, we the proud people of the continent with the dark skin should dictate our own pace but we can’t afford to be slow like our leaders are doing with their corrupt practices.
But we need to know what works for us and what doesn’t and I think Joy News misread the situation.
For example, the moral obligations that Joy News should have taken into consideration might include but not limited to such issues as desisting from the bland and blind importation of lifestyles that aren’t in the interest of Ghana, using its platform to promote national cohesion, and use of language responsibly.
These moral obligations are linked to the functional duties of the media, which must reflect in their work. The media should act as the conscience of the society and not the society being the conscience of the media.
The responsibility of Ghana’s media, then, should be composed of a duty to discharge not only the functional obligations of role but also the moral obligations.
But we have seen only the former largely in action.
Today, a majority of Ghanaians are increasingly getting disappointed in the action and posturing of our media. I think they are because we expect too much from them.
We expect our media to be intelligent enough to know what the national interest(s) is or are at all times. We expect them to protect the vulnerable and the minority in our society. But largely that has not happened.
They have proven over the last two decades that they are unworthy of the trust of the people. What is true is that the action of some media houses continues to stoke pockets of violence across the country, leading to the destruction of lives and properties.
But must we lower the bar of expectations in order to accommodate the follies of the media? That can’t be done. We need the media to be matured enough to rise up to the occasion. And we need Joy News to perform its functional and moral obligations at all times, just as we expect same from others.
Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church, Most Reverend Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle who served on the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) had this to say after a witness appeared before them in 2004.
“The damage is incalculable, with negative effects on children…this is a history lesson for us all…[but] May God have mercy on this dear country and forgive us all.”
I want to submit that a negative history that has no moral lesson is best left to history itself. Let history deal with itself.
May God have mercy on us all!
Kwabena Brakopowers is a journalist, novelist, and essayist whose works focus on politics, migration, social situation, economic and environmental issues. He spends his time writing either in Accra or Monrovia, where he calls his second home. He could be reached at Brakomen@outlook.com or visit www.brakopowers.com to read about him.