There isn’t much to me said for the caliber of Ghana’s media landscape or its professionals. With a handful of bright exceptions, journalism in Ghana is a profession overridden by undisciplined individuals who plague the landscape with their amateurish attempts at broadcasting and storytelling. For this persistent and enduring failing, the country has been the butt of jokes all over the continent.
It is rare that a media personality engages his/her subject with thought provoking questions. It is often clear in far too many journalists’ writing how little research has been put into a topic before it goes to print. Curiosity is shelved in pursuit of conventional approaches to any given topic. One can literally pick up a Ghanaian newspaper from 1984 and discover that the subject matter is treated the same way in 2018, the only difference now being a flagrant disregard for the rules of spelling and grammar in the press. However – through it all – there were certain media darlings one could depend upon to bring a refreshing perspective, intelligence and excellence to any fora. Tommy Annan-Forson was one of those people.
Annan-Forson has to his credit over three decades in broadcast journalism. He has trained some of the countries ‘top’ broadcasters. His voice and opinion carry weight, as he is often considered a man who is impartial in his opinions. He frequently takes the media to task for its weakening ethics, including journalists’ habit of forming and disseminating opinions without first engaging in source material. He has been on a crusade to improve journalistic standards in the country for many years.
This is why it came as a shock to many who are familiar with his work and reputation – myself included – to discover that Tommy Annan-Forson made himself guilty of the same sins he’s been decrying in the media for years.
For nearly a week now, there has been a brawl on social media (Facebook, specifically) over the topic of whether all wives should be expected to cook in the home, whether that act constitutes slavery, a woman’s “place” in the home, certificates for washing panties by hand and all the trappings you might expect from such a non-starter discussion. How did it begin? With this post:
Louise Carol, a founding member of Pepper Dem Ministries commented on the subject on her own wall addressing the broader mindset that leads to a man extoling his wife’s strengths by taking pride in her sacrifice for his personal comfort. His reward for her labor is to give her his ATM card, presumably to go get herself something nice, the implications being that he knows so little about his wife’s likes that he can’t even go out and pick up something for her to show his appreciation. That’s a topic for a different day.
In her position on the matter, she wrote [in part]:
If your wife after work still manages to cook for you whiles you fart on the sofa watching football or playing games, that’s your house matter. If some other man is not too bothered about stomach infrastructure and after the hard day’s work tells the wife not to bother or the wife herself chooses not to bother, that is also “somborri’s” house matter not your own. If you want to praise your slaving or hardworking or loving wife, whatever adjective you find suitable, pls go ahead without suggesting that she defines what womanhood totally entails.
All hell broke loose from there. Suddenly, the misinterpretation to “slave over a task” had been championed in popular culture. Learned people, ministers, media personalities and lawyers pounced on the word “slaving”, twisted it to fit their biases and weaponized their intentional mischaracterization of a turn of phrase with the aim of silencing a group of women that Ghana’s heavily patriarchal, repressive and regressive society simply abhor because of their tone.
This would’ve been the media’s opportunity to bring some clarity and sanity to a situation that really ought not be a situation at all. Instead, personalities like Afia Pokuaa, herself a ‘journalist’, seized on the opportunity to create mischief by forming a group called Sugar Dem Ministries (an intentional, unimaginative and lazy play on Pepper Dem Ministries), and organization whose sole aim is to defend men against any woman who would dare to “pepper them”; i.e. call them out on their misogyny and chauvinism. Naturally, part of that defense calls for licking men as well.
With all that ails Ghana, from its debt, to crumbling infrastructure, to pollution, to the enduring education crisis…what has captured the minds of the countries self-proclaimed best and brightest is the battle to be cooked for and catered to and how a group of gender activists want to take away that right!
Tommy Annan-Forson ought to have been the voice of reason in this madness, but instead, this was his contribution:
Hitherto, I had found the conversation about cooking absolutely ludicrous. But with Annan-Forson’s submission, I recognized that it had now taken a dangerous turn.
There are many things that put the stability of Ghanaian marriages and homes at risk, beginning with infidelity, lying and financial fragility. There are men who bring diseases into their marital bed and still manage to keep their wives committed to preserving their marriage. But according to Annan-Forson, it is the pointing out that cooking is not central to keeping a home intact that is the threat to the country’s marriages. Anyone who attacks this sacred institution must be stopped and silenced. PDM must be censured.
It is obvious that he formed his opinion based on hearsay, and not because he had directly engaged with the source material. We expect this behavior from the gossiping little boys who litter the comments with their text speak and poorly reasoned thoughts, NOT from a media stalwart like Annan-Forson. As someone who’s duty is to the truth, to expose ills and inform the public, who functions at the highest levels of the fourth estate, he demonstrated a gross dereliction of commitment to his mandate.
Ghana is no longer a country where propaganda is the order of the day. We do not remove people from the public discourse simply because we do not like what they have to say or how they say. Ghana – and its media outlets- is no longer under the control of ‘benevolent dictatorships’. The 1992 Constitution freed us from that kind of tyranny. For Tommy Annan-Forson to suggest – and as vehemently as he did – that these women ought to be banned from all broadcasting platforms and for no other reason than his own ignorance is all appalling and repugnant.
We can’t overlook his glaring, distasteful sexism either. It has an age-old tinge to it.
Tagging women who have fought and continue to fight for women’s lib as mentally ill, emotionally disturbed or just plain old “mad” is a tactic that has long been employed to dismiss and discredit the work these women do as well.
In the early 19th century, these women were imprisoned and treated for ‘hysteria’. That Tommy Annan-Forson would outright imply that the ladies of PDM are insane is not by coincidence.
Women who have fought for equality have been called “ugly”, “bitter” and “mentally unstable” for as long as the fight has gone mainstream. In fact, if you’re an African feminist/gender activist and have not been called ugly or lesbian, I would seriously question the effectiveness of your social impact!
Tommy Annan-Forson and his bootlickers should all be ashamed of themselves for their failure to engage in this conversation with any sense of decorum, propriety or common sense whatsoever. You can’t go around calling people insane based on your pervasive, unyielding, interminable ignorance. We certainly can’t change the rules of media engagement based on the same, either.
Wherever your loyalties lie in this absurd “debate”, we must all agree that censoring conversation based on ignorance and hearsay cannot be tolerated. Not if we are to achieve any development goals and sustain a dynamic culture that our descendants can be proud of. We are better than what Tommy Annan-Forson is proposing…or at least, we ought to try to be.