Ghana Journalist Association Website
ABOUT THE GHANA JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION
The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) was established on 15th August 1949 at a time when politics in the then former British colony of the Gold Coast was at its peak and the minds of many media practitioners and ordinary citizens were filled with events of the ‘nationalist’ struggle. It is significant to note that a number of the “nationalist leaders” were journalists who employed the power of the pen to propagate their ideas and vision of independence for the then Gold Coast.
They included Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Dr. J.B. Danquah. At the time of its formation, it was called Africa Press Association and was set up to provide the indigenous media practitioner with an alternative to the colonial press. One of its first actions in support of anti-colonialism was to organise a boycott of the so-called “white press” for a brief period. However, political differences among members of the Association grew and soon took its toll on the unity and solidarity of members.
This resulted in a lull in its activities between 1950 and 1954. There was a major attempt by some members to wake the association up from its slumber and to form an association made up solely of journalists.
The crusade was led by the late T.B. Ottie, Ben Dorkenoo and other local veteran journalists. They were supported by Sam Morris, a West Indian stringer. However, unity was difficult to achieve immediately as a result of political differences. The media climate became a bit more conducive for the association’s rejuvenation just after Ghana’s independence in 1957.
It was at a time when the CPP which eventually won the general elections had both broadened and consolidated its media policy. The Ghana News Agency, the School of Journalism – now the Ghana Institute of Journalism – and the Guinea Press (which later became the New Times Corporation) were established.
In 1959, the Ghana Press Club was established with Messrs Martin Therson-Cofie as President, Eric Adjorlolo as Treasurer and G.A. Hassen as Financial Secretary. Mr. Therson-Cofie was re-elected in 1960 with the late Cecil Forde as his deputy. Mr. Henry Ofori (Carl Mutt) as Secretary, Eric Adjorlolo as Treasurer, Carl Reindorf, Organising Secretary and Regina Addae, Executive Member. The Ghana Press Club survived until the First Republic in 1960.
In that same year, its name was changed to the Association of Ghanaian Journalists and Writers. The Trade Union Congress made many unsuccessful attempts to absorb it into the Association of Printers and Newspapers Workers of the TUC.
In 1962, the new association became affiliated to the now defunct Prague-based International Organisation of Journalists. The GJA is currently a member of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), West African Journalists Association, and the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) the world’s biggest journalists’ union fed eration representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries.
The National Liberation Council (NLC)Government, which was formed after the overthrow of the CPP Government in 1966, took over the premises of the Association, claiming that it was a “nest” for socialist press ideologies and a haven for political mischief-makers. Despite all these efforts to cripple the Association, there were members who persevered and showed great commitment.
However, their attempt to rejuvenate the Association was not possible until the change of government in 1969. The Association was revived and then renamed the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) during Ghana’s Second Republic under Prime Minister Dr. Abrefa Busia. It was headed by the late Sam Arthur who was later appointed Director of Information Services Department (ISD). He was succeeded by Fraser Ofori- Atta.
The GJA once again faced difficulties even under the civilian regime of Dr. Busia. There were summary dismissals in the civil and public service which affected some journalists. Serious divisions began to emerge when it appeared that the GJA was not protesting against the dismissals and/mass transfer of journalists. A faction of the journalists broke away, under the leadership of the late T.B. Ottie, who became the Regional Chairman of the Consultative Confederation of Journalists, as it was known.
This group had representation from all the regional branches with the exception of Greater Accra. Matters came to a head when journalists in the Ashanti region boycotted a dinner held as part of an inaugural event. This culminated in the mass transfer of journalists based in Ashanti region to other parts of the country.
The Association had barely recovered from the shock of transfers, and in some cases dismissals, when the late General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong staged a coup in January 1972 and ordered the dismissal of quite a number of journalists.
Solidarity among Ghanaian journalists further plummeted and the GJA became a pale shadow of itself, as the mouthpiece of Ghanaian journalists and a bulwark of press freedom. Between 1972 and 1974, the GJA was virtually dormant; but thanks to the efforts of Mr G.A Dentu to revive it, some degree of normalcy was attained leading to elections at which Mr. Kwame Gyewu-Kyem was elected President from 1974 – 1976. He was succeeded by T.B. Ottie.
The Association went through another rough patch during the 1979 June 4th uprising, followed by the coup-d’etat of 31st December 1981. These periods saw the reactivation of the obnoxious Criminal Libel and Sedition laws. The Newspaper Licensing Law was also enacted to quell any potential dissent by journalists and prevent those who were supposedly inclined to create disaffection for the government. The effective gagging of the Ghanaian media at that time manifested itself in the development of “the culture of silence” in the society. A number of journalists went into exile and a number of the prominent ones who remained took to sports writing as a cover.
The association took a major step towards legal recognition when in January 1989 it got registered as a Professional Body in accordance with the provisions of the Professional Bodies Registration Decree, 1973 (NRCD 143).
The promulgation of the 1992 Ghana Constitution especially Chapter 12 rejuvenated the Association with the guarantees of Freedom and Independence of the media. The impetus provided the media by the Constitution, galvanized Journalists to once again rally around the Association.
Ghanaian journalists, under their umbrella body, have since then practically and psychological resolved that they would never allow the media to be “chained”, nor allow for the repression of the spirit of free expression and press freedom. The Association has continued to draw inspiration from the provisions of Chapter 12 of the Ghana Constitution and has through those constitutional provisions freedom and independence of the media pursued the aims and objectives of the Association which are to:
• Promote professionalism and high journalistic standards
• Promote and strengthen the contribution of the Association and its members to democracy and good governance
• Protect and strengthen the rights of members
• Respect and defend freedom of expression, pluralism of the media and universal access to information
• Put in place mechanisms to co-ordinate actions towards ensuring the safety of members in the performance of their professional duties
• Promote good relations with local and international communication training institutions, media establishments, governmental and non-governmental organisations in furtherance of the Association’s objectives:
• Work towards improving the conditions of service of members
• Promote media accountability and self-regulation
• Strive to provide legal protection and moral support for members where necessary
• Reward and honour outstanding members periodically
• Maintain a permanent secretariat to run the affairs of the Association and
• Undertake any other activities that promote the interest of the Association
The GJA has two representatives on the National Media Commission set up in 1993 by an Act of Parliament. The Commission is enjoined among others, to take appropriate measures to ensure the establishment and maintenance of the highest journalistic standards, including the investigation, mediation and settlement of complaints made against or by the press or other mass media.
The association has actively supported all measures by the Commission that are aimed at promoting media accountability and in defence of press freedom and free expression.
Admittedly, there existed irresponsible journalism before the repeal of the Criminal Libel and Seditious Law in 2001. However, it is fair to acknowledge, that there still exist some serious ethical violations after that law was expunged from our statues. But in spite of the challenges facing the promotion of qualitative journalism, there is no doubt that the Association has through various measures, demonstrated tremendous commitment to improving the situation, particularly in promoting media accountability.
As a result, it has in the face of challenges continued to enjoy tremendous goodwill from Ghanaian civil society and international media watch groups, in the defence of press freedom and free expression in Ghana.
Ghana’s Fourth Republic Constitution no doubt brought to the GJA a renaissance that has raised the Association’s profile, independence and influence in the body polity. Tremendous strides have been made towards the fulfilment of its aims and objectives. They include the development of a Code of Ethics for journalists in 1994 and the establishment of a permanent secretariat christened “Ghana International Press Centre” in 2003.
The Association has strengthened its annual awards to reward and honour outstanding members. It also with the support of civil society waged a fierce campaign against the Criminal Libel and Sedition Law which culminated in the repeal of the obnoxious law in 2001 under the Kufuor Administration.
Significantly, it was during this period of renaissance that the Association also experienced strong women participation at the national executive level. For the first time in its history the GJA was headed by a woman, Mrs. Gifty Affenyi- Dadzie. She was elected President of the Association in 1996 and became the only person to serve a three two year term running.
She was also the first lady to be elected Vice President of the Association. Ms. Ajoa Yeboah-Afari took over from her from 2003 – 2006. By convention, the post of Treasurer has always gone to a woman.
Longest-serving General Secretary Bright Blewu bowed out of the executive in 2013. He served a record 16 years which spanned the presidency of Ambassador Kabral Blay-Amihere, Mrs. Gifty Affenyi-Dadzie, Ms. Ajoa Yeboah- Afari and Mr. Ransford Tetteh.
The GJA is an active member of a number of civil society coalitions whose work it believes would help to further expand the frontiers of press freedom and strengthen the cause of qualitative journalism. They are the Ghana Anti- Corruption Coalition, Coalition for a Broadcasting Law, Coalition for a Freedom of Information Law and Coalition for Transparency of the Airwaves.