From Lapdogs to Watchdogs: The Press and Democracy in Ghana
The study explores the contribution of newspapers to multiparty democracy in Ghana, especially in the post-1992 era. Its underlying energy is predicated on media’s role in enhancing accountability, transparency and citizenship. It follows Bittner (1989) in perceiving newspapers as ‘a major source of forming public opinion and affecting national and international efforts towards economic progress and global understanding’. Essentially, the study provides for empirical insights into the qualitative dimensions of media and democracy, using qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. A comparative analysis approach is employed to investigate the role of the state-owned Daily Graphic and the privately-owned Ghanaian Chronicle. The focus is on political coverage before, during and after elections in terms of ownership, control and accountability. Emerging from some of these interviews is the changing face of Ghanaian media. The findings clearly illustrate the role of the media in ensuring that political power-wielders operate within the standards required for democracy to become crystallised. However, the effectiveness of the Ghanaian media in carrying out this task is circumscribed by factors that are internal and external to the media. The cleavage along partisan fault lines has created a simple but an almost indelible impression about the Ghana media, in binary terms, as being either for or against government. This bifurcated view of the media is subsumed in the private-state dichotomy and has antecedents in its immediate historical past. The vanguard role of the media vitiates when leaders and the general public have the perception that it acts as covers for political entrepreneurs. The topic is a significant closer look at the role of the newspaper media in the democratic process of a specific African country.