Former Peoples National Convention MP for Zebila, John Ndebugri, took aim at ex-president Jerry Rawlings on Saturday accusing him of “indulging in exclusive self-glorification and gratification” over Mr Rawlings’ claim that the Kufuor government influenced certain persons in the media with money.
Mr Ndebugri was a panelist on Joy FM’s news analysis programme News File, hosted by Kwaku Sakyi Addo.
The former president, addressing the International Catholic Union of the Press in Burkina Faso, alleged that a certain government engaged in media spinning by paying a Ghanaian journalist $10,000 a month to do dirty work on behalf of the government while a former head of state was on a “miserable” salary of $350 a month.
Mr Rawlings did not mention names.
Aide to Mr Rawlings, Kofi Adams, describes the statement as a call on the press to self-assess themselves and avoid compromising professionalism for self-serving monetary rewards.
But Mr Ndebugri, a member of New Patriotic Party, said Mr Rawlings’ statement must provoke concern from the media whose image the former president sought to drag into the mud.
“He was given this topic and he tried to sound philosophical…I’m unable to place that particular allegation he made in context of the philosophies he was trying to put out. And I came to the conclusion that the man is being haunted by the past,” Mr Ndebugri said.
“I would have said I won’t comment on it because we are all used to how he seizes opportunity to self-gratify himself and glorify himself but he has made a serious allegation which is not related to the discussion that he was engaging in.”
“I will call on media practitioners in this country in particular to try and hold him to come out and clarify what he is talking about so that we can put in context what he tried to convey to that international conference.”
Meanwhile, Communications Minister Haruna Iddrisu said the essence of Mr Rawlings’ comment was to force a discussion around the “critical” role the media plays in ensuring good governance.
However, Mr Iddrisu, opined that “speaking as a lawyer, he who avers must prove,” suggesting the journalist in question must be named as a failure to do so would mean a bad image for the general Ghanaian press.
“I think that it may open up to conjecture and speculation; and it’s not categorical and specific to this particular individual person. It may be used as basis to debase the integrity and standing of very decent media and legal practitioners.”
“Some further particulars related to this issue will help our public discourse,” he said.
Former President Rawlings also touched on what he said had been a “culture of silence” in the media.
However, editor-in-chief of the New Crusading Guide newspaper, Abdul Malik Kwaku Baako, said on governments who suppressed the media for their whims and caprices, Mr Rawlings must admit the most guilt for the PNDC/NDC government which did a lot to stifle freedom of speech.
Mr Baako referred to a certain decree during the Rawlings era which forced some media houses “into sports journalism in order to eat.
“We were so suppressed; there was a newspaper licensing decree under Rawlings which was used to eliminate some of us from practicing journalism.”