Sunday, 30 August 2015

How Ghanaian Journalists Can Best Honour Samuel Nuamah's Memory

The tragic death of a young and hardworking journalist, who died on 20th September, 2015, in a motor accident whiles returning to base in Accra, to file his news story, after an assigmnent covering a presidential visit to Ho, the capital of the Volta Region, stunned many in the Ghanaian media world.

Samuel Naumah's untimely death has deeply affected his colleagues at the Ghanaian Times - and saddened journalists across the nation.  May he rest in peace.

The death of the offspring of elderly parents, who,  in the ordinary course of events, expect to be buried by their children, who then suddenly predecease them, is always a harrowing experience and traumatic life-event, for such bereaved parents.

That is why many Ghanaians feel the pain of Samuel Nuamah's parents and family - and commiserate with them over their tragic loss of Samuel.

Speaking personally, now aged 62, with adult children and grandchildren, of my own, in Japan and  the UK, his death hit me hard. I shed tears that someone so young and hardworking, with his whole life in front of him - and blessed with a loving young wife, and child, who live overseas - had had his life cut short so tragically.

To ensure that Samuel's death is not in vain, the unanswered questions surrounding the events leading to his death, must be answered by the presidency. Truthfully.

The presidency needs to understand that if there actually is any blame to be apportioned in this matter, no amount of cover-up will stop those culpable from being exposed.

No one's official position at the presidency is worth such egregiuos face-saving chicanery for. President Mahama must spell that out to all of them.

It must be understood clearly by all at the presidency, that the media will not spare anyone who is directly or indirectly responsible for diverting the bus that took Samuel Nuamah and his colleagues to Ho from Accra - particularly if it emerges that it was diverted  for frivolous reasons: such as carrying party supporters to meet the president.

That is why the nation must be told the truth about how it came about that the official bus allocated to the media, when they set off from Accra for the journey to Ho, with the president, was not made available to those selfsame journalists returning to Accra in advance of the president's entourage, to file their news stories.

Where exactly did the official bus allocated to the  presidential press corps, have to be taken to, which necessitated the presidency hiring a replacement bus for the journey back to Accra by Samuel and his colleagues?

That information cannot be treated as a state secret by the presidency - and if anyone in the presidency tries to treat it as such, it will be hard for even fair-minded Ghanaians not to feel that  he or she has something to hide.

The nation also needs to know who (individual or corporate) actually owns the rented minibus that killed Samuel Nuamah. How much did they charge the presidency for hiring out  the bus for the journey to Accra from Ho?

Was the rate charged fair - or,  as is often the case with many businesses providing goods and services to the state, super-rip-off rates were charged: hence the need for a cover-up to hide that fact?

Furthermore, will the presidency ensure that the insurers of the rented minibus pay out compensation for medical treatment that the passengers of the bus they rented out to the presidency, are entitled to, by law?

The insurers of the rented bus should be made to fulfill their legal obligation to do so. If Samuel Naumah's wife and child have to be compensated by being paid a substantial lump sum, let them not wait to be sued in the law courts, before they do so.

And the  media ought to let Ghanaians know that passengers traveling on tro-tros and other public-service buses that are involved in accidents, are each entitled to a certain amount of money, to enable them pay their medical bills.

The media must ensure that the insurance industry informs the travelling public about the availability of such compensation - since premiums are paid on each seat for precisely that purpose.

The general public need to know too, through the media, that if they are involved in an accident, and it turns out the vehicle does not have insurance cover, they should approach the National Insurance Commission, with a police report, for compensation.

Ghanaians must also be told the actual condition that the tyre that burst - and caused the rented minibus to somersault a few times, and eventually end up in a swampy area, and killing Samuel Nuamah - was in.

They must also be shown documentary evidence of the results of any tests carried out to ascertain the actual condition of the burst tyre at the material moment it burst. There should be no dissembling over that.

 No one at the presidency must be heard repeating that pure-nonsense-on-bamboo-stilts suggestion, that a driver said to be driving in reckless fashion at breakneck speed, was a good driver.  Was that said  to prevent the car hire company he worked for, from being sued, on Samuel Nuamah's behalf?

As a  symbolic gesture, to show the importance the nation attaches to the media, as the fourth arm of government, in our democracy, Samuel Nuamah ought to be given a state funeral. That is a must. The Ghanaian media expect nothing less for their fallen colleague - who died in harness serving his nation.

Finally, since many media houses in Ghana are unable to pay the journalists they employ well - as they neither generate sufficient revenues, nor  make decent profits - the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), ought to collaborate with Ghana's print and electronic media owners, to hold discussions with the Dutch media paywall provider, Blendle, so that they work together to replicate the metered paywall for the Dutch media, for the Ghanaian media.

Perhaps if approached, the Dutch government would be happy to pay for such a metered paywall - as its contribution to strengthening the finances of media houses in Ghana and thus assure their independence: and help  deepen the roots of Ghanaian democracy, yet further, that way.

A metered paywall will ensure that anyone wanting to access the Ghanaian media online, pays only for each specific article he or she reads. Perhaps if asked to do so, the mobile phone companies could also find a way for users to make payments for specific articles on their mobile money platforms, to enable Ghanaians pay for accessing Ghanaian media stories online?

Many Ghanaian content providers (such as myself) are fed up with websites that focus on Ghana, and which earn substantial sums from advertising, but refuse to pay for articles that are authors' intellectual properties, that they publish. Was the slave trade not abolished centuries ago, I ask?

Samuel Nuamah's death sparked introspection in journalists in Ghana,  about the risks they face, in their role as the fourth arm of government, as they work hard on a daily basis, to keep the nation informed, educated and entertained.

Will it not be a fitting way to honour Samuel's memory, were a metered paywall to lead to an improvement in the revenues and profits of Ghanaian media houses - and better pay for the journalists they employ?

And if all of us always referred to it,  as the Samuel Nuamah paywall (SNpaywall), in our writing, when such a paywall comes into being, will we not be honouring his memory in creative fashion? Samuel, duea, eni amanehunu. May your gentle soul rest in eternal peace.


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