24 August 2012

Ghana: Kasa Builds Media Capacity in Natural Resource and Environment Reporting

Though Ghana is recognised as one of the countries on the African continent with an abundance of natural resources, research has shown that media reportage on the Natural Resource and Environment (NRE) sector has over the years not been encouraging.

The research, which was conducted by the Centre for African Elections Media Monitoring Index (CAEMMI) between 2009 and 2010, was meant to measure the extent of NRE coverage in the print media.

According to the data of the research, in 2009-2010, out of 296,195 news stories, the NRE sector had only 7% coverage in 2009 and later dropped to 6% in 2010. Out of this, the agriculture sector recorded 30% in 2009, forest had 2% but later rose to 5% in 2010; climate change recorded only 1% coverage, with environment recording 29% but later dropping to 27% in 2010.

Besides, it was found that a lot of the reportage on the NRE issues was event-oriented and lacked policy analysis. Most NRE stories, the research indicated, were not given prominence as they were found in the centre pages instead of conspicuous pages of the front or back of newspapers.

These were revealed in Accra recently at a two-day media training workshop on natural resources and environmental governance in Ghana. The workshop was organised by KASA-Ghana with support from CARE International and ICCO. It was on the theme Strengthening Media Engagement and Reportage in Natural Resources and Environmental Governance in Ghana.

Dr Messan Mawugbe, Executive Director of CAEMMI, submitted that the research reveals a high level of inconsistencies in the NRE reportage, adding that he regretted the media?s failure to use its critical power to address the challenges confronting the NRE sector.

To address these challenges, he proposed that KASA and other stakeholders should introduce an NRE reporting curriculum for journalists who would undertake the course for a period not less than six months which they would be certified. He called on the various universities to also consider introducing a similar course in their curricula.

He challenged journalists to interrogate political parties on their agenda for NRE and scrutinize their manifestoes on the subject.

Dr Mawugbe advised journalist to acquaint themselves with the language of NRE sector to enhance their write ups feed their readers with the exact stuff.

In a presentation on Extractive Industry Transparent Initiative (GHEITI), Dr Steve Manteaw, Vice Chairman of the Initiative, told the workshop that Ghana has a framework for deliberations on how the country could maximize benefits from its natural resources.

He explained that the EITI, which is a multi-stakeholder initiative comprising governments, companies, and civil society, played several roles to ensure transparency. These include the regular publication of all material on oil, gas, and mining payments and receipts by companies and governments respectively, in a manner that is accessible to citizens in a comprehensible format. That, in his view, will increase the bottom up demand for accountability in the utilization of resources.

Dr Manteaw was of the opinion that Ghana should avoid introducing stability agreements in the oil sector in order to ensure that the resource wealth becomes a blessing rather than a curse. Natural resources should be seen as assets for transformation and not income to be consumed,? he emphasised

He observed that oil and gas reporting was not just another everyday reporting because of the complexity involved in all its dimensions. It is evident that, the complexity of the petroleum industry presents peculiar challenges to reporters, but if one knows what to look out for and understands the context of news event this challenge can be overcome, he added.

According to him, even though oil and gas was not very much reported in mainstream media but confined to specialised publications, there were still compelling reasons why the sector should be given attention in the mainstream Ghanaian media. Some of these reasons, he indicated, were the fact that the resource had the potential to reduce poverty and boost economic growth as well as enhance transparency and accountability.

?To be able to report competently on the sector, one needs to understand the industry and its issues. One of these is the petroleum industry value chain,? he pointed out.

Dr Manteaw urged journalists covering the oil and gas sector to focus on issues of transparency, accountability, probity, participation and how they contribute to the maximisation of benefits from the sector and for all Ghanaians.

In his welcome remarks, the Co-ordinator of Kasa, Mr Zakaria Yakubu, said the event was to enhance the capacity of media practitioners in natural resources and environmental governance issues. He explained that the programme came at a time when there was the need to increase recognition for not only the NRE governance in our national development, but also the need to manage it well.

This, according to him, would increase transparency and accountability on the way natural resources was managed so as to inure to the benefit of host communities..

Mr Yakubu recalled that a research by the National Media Commission (NMC) in 2008 unearthed that the NRE enjoyed only 1% coverage. That year being an election year, much attention was given to other socio-political issues to the detriment of other equally important issues including natural resource.

In an interview with Public Agenda, a participant, Ms Francisca Ativoe, said she was generally impressed with the performance of the resource persons, and wished that other organisations would emulate what KASA had done to help build their capacities in various sectors.

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