“The most awful thing about power is not that it corrupts absolutely, but that it makes people so utterly boring and so predictable and….. just plain uninteresting” (Chinua Achebe, “Anthills of the Savannah)

An intern journalist calls the Minister for Sanitation to find out about an issue. Then this Minister for Sanitation decides that, the intern has no right to call her to find out about the issue at hand. Simply because the journalist is an intern.

Is the Minister for Sanitation not aware that it does not matter what position any citizen in this country holds? What matters is, she (the Minister for Sanitation) is a public servant and she is serving the interest of the Ghanaian, whether that Ghanaian is a primary one pupil, a senior journalist, an intern, a market woman, a cart pusher or Ph.D. holder.

One of the first things every student journalist learns in the first year of his or her studies at the Ghana Institute of Journalism is: check, double-check and cross-check (this reminds of Dr. Ebo Afful). This intern was performing an assignment in line with checking, double-checking and cross-checking.

An assignment that will inform her listeners and the general public about the specific issue with regard to sanitation. In the field of journalism, the journalist or the reporter (whether he or she is an intern or a staff) is obliged to verify before reporting a story. That was what this intern was doing. What was her crime? That, she is an intern and she wants to speak to the Minister for Sanitation.

The whole matter smacks of conceit on the part of the Minister for Sanitation. No wonder, Chinua Achebe was not wrong about the most awful thing about power. There is one thing that people who hold power should have at the back of their minds: the power you wield is given to you by the mandate of the people.

Every Minister in charge of any ministry must undergo weekly orientation about relating with the citizenry.  It must be drummed in no uncertain terms to every minister that, he or she serves at the behest of the citizenry. The power they hold is in the hands of the people. The people can change their minds and give the party which the minister belongs to marching orders and there will be nothing that minister and her party can do about that.

Again, every journalist who is an intern in any media house should be encouraged by this action to pursue responsible journalism, hold public office holders accountable as well as be the watchdog of the people. No intern in any media house should have his or her spirit dampened by this action. For the profession of journalism is one that makes enemies out of friends and friends out of enemies.

Passion should be the strength and hope, a very present help to keep every intern and journalist steadfast as they come face to face with the awful consequences that power has wrought on duty bearers. Passion should give us the courage to wake up the following morning and go out there to report the news, as if nothing had happened earlier.

“Your Excellency” Minister for Sanitation, please do the honourable: call this intern and apologise, for as much as an apology does not assuage pain, it will show that upon sober reflection you have realised that you were wrong. This will endear you to the citizenry.

The writer is a freelance journalist. [email protected]/[email protected]

Source: Alex Blege