The purpose of my journey to Ghana is to learn about the media industry and the daily lives of journalists. The exchange program I'm on through the International Center for Journalists also sent Ghanaian journalists to the United States. Three other countries (Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda) are also part of the exchange.
While, after less than a week in Ghana, I'm certainly not an expert on the media climate, I do have a few interesting observations that I thought would be worth sharing.
As mentioned before, Ghana is considered one of the most stable countries in sub-Saharan Africa. And, while it is still a developing country in many ways, the stable governmental system has meant a pretty secure place for journalists to do their jobs.
The Media Foundation for West Africa is headquartered in Accra, Ghana. The employees of the foundation have been our hosts here. The Media Foundation for West Africa works with journalists in 16 West African countries in an effort to encourage a safe environment for reporting. Possible consequences of being involved in a story that the government or another organization doesn't like are detainment, beatings, or worse. The organization says journalists in The Gambia by far have the most at risk in reporting a story. The foundation is also watching what they call troubling trends in the treatment of journalists elsewhere in West Africa.
With all of the safety concerns facing journalists in Africa, it is no surprise that during our security briefing in Washington, D.C. before the trip that we were advised to call ourselves "writers" or "filmmakers" rather than journalists when introducing ourselves. But I've found that, in Ghana, journalism is not a dirty word.
Radio journalism especially is highly respected in Ghana. It's the primary way both English-speaking city-dwellers and illiterate rural Ghanaians access news, information and entertainment. Nana Boakye-Yiadom is the Deputy Director of News Programming at Citi FM -- where I am spending a few days. He says there are more than 230 radio stations in Ghana -- a country the size of Oregon with a population similar to Texas's. There are 40 radio stations in Accra alone.
That's not to say there aren't challenges in practicing journalism in Ghana. I hope to delve deeper into these issues when I get back to KUT.