A veteran Australian journalist, Mr Peter Arnett, has called on Ghanaian journalists to always challenge the government to pursue better alternatives for the people.
Mr Arnett is a world-renowned journalist who covered Gulf War I for CNN when all other journalists had been asked by the American government to pull out.
Sharing his experiences at a public forum organised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in Accra on Wednesday, he urged journalists to strive to capture alternative information and communicate it professionally, especially in crisis situations such as conflicts and war.
Mr Arnett started his career reporting the Vietnam War for the Associated Press and during Gulf War I he was the only reporter from CNN in Baghdad when all other media institutions had been pressurised to withdraw their reporters by the American government.
Some high points of his career as a journalist are when he interviewed Saddam Hussein 10 days into Gulf War I and later an interview with Osama Bin Laden before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and other installations in the US.
Now 73, Mr Arnett is a professor at the Shantou University in China.
Recounting some of his experiences, he said his time in Vietnam was part of the most formative years of his life.
“It was in Vietnam, where men fought and died, that I learned to be a reporter,” he told his audience.
He said at that time he paid attention to the feelings of the soldiers he accompanied onto the battlefield, captured them and communicated them to the American people.
He said he wrote articles that challenged the generals at the helm of affairs and the conscience of people on the value of civilian lives in battle, in spite of the sides they belonged to.
Mr Arnett said communicating the truth then was worth dying for, saying that encouraged journalists to do just that.
Dwelling later on his topic for the forum, “Journalism in a Globalised World — Prospects and Challenges”, he stressed that the basis of all reporting was getting the facts right and communicating them professionally.
He said with tremendous improvement in the social, political and economic sectors of countries such as China and Ghana, journalism had also improved.
That, according to him, was because the media could not thrive in a country where there were poverty, hopelessness and wanton abuse.
He expressed satisfaction at the fact that journalism in Ghana was not confronted by some of those challenges, hence its growth and progress.
Mr Arnett also pointed out the waning influence of the foreign media and said that was an opportunity for journalists in the country to better their trade by professionally gathering information and packaging it for their people.
He envisaged a period in the immediate future when the developing world would produce 24-hour TV channels similar to CNN.
A member of the Council of State and former President of the GJA, Mrs Gifty Afenyi-Dadzie, who chaired the function, urged Ghanaian journalists to be dedicated to their watchdog role, instead of becoming pipe organs of governments and politicians.
She said it was time for journalists to take the Directive Principles of State Policy in Chapter 6 of the 1992 constitution and use them as a measure against the sayings and actions of politicians and policy makers.
Mrs Afenyi-Dadzie also asked the GJA to revise the guidelines on election reporting which were produced some four years ago to make them relevant to the upcoming elections.
DAILY GRAPHIC, FRIDAY, MAY 23, 2008, PG 25 (SPREAD)