Why do you want to become a journalist?
I was born in a small village called Salom- Madagber in the Ada West in the Southeast of Ghana. They mine salt to be used in the whole country and by other African countries. But the problem is that it doesn’t pay the pain, you have to carry the salt on your head from a very far distance after mining to be sold to buyers. For something that is worth GHC50.00 (5.53 USD) in Accra (the capital city) they give you GHC10.00 (1.1 USD) and then you could still be robbed. How I hear it in the media does not make me feel like it was represented properly. Still, I believe the media is the way to end the social injustice.
Around 2004 the only television in the village was stolen by armed robbers. That is crazy man, you know. Enough is enough. At that time, I was still growing up. I thought to myself: I will become a journalist z myself and report well. Fast forward: I completed Junior High School, went to Senior High School to study General Arts including Literature, Economics, Government and my local language, Dangme. When I finished, there was no money to continue to go back to media school to study journalism. So, I went out from the village to Accra to hustle, worked with some hotels, guest houses, among other companies. With my salary I went to the Ghana Media School. So, I went there to study journalism. In two years, I was awarded a Diploma in Journalism and Media Studies. I graduated with some honors including the Most Promising graduate in Journalism.
When I was in school, I was still working for radio Ada, a community radio station and a couple of media houses in Accra. I went to Radio Ada with the notion that I can serve them better well because they are marginalized. Radio Ada is geared towards the vulnerable, I was the first host on their fact-check program which really fought misinformation and fake news during the COVID 19 era together with the Media Foundation for West Africa, so that program was very helpful. I later moved to the Ghana News Agency (GNA).
Generally, in Ghana when your child wants to become a journalist, you might look for experienced journalists and give your child to be mentored. Most people also go to the university and study journalism or communication. The Ghanaian system does not really help the youth. I completed school with a lot of potential astute journalists but they were not getting paid for their services and so a lot moved on with something else.
How much do you get for a one article?
15 Ghana Cedis (1.66 USD) per story for GNA, and it is paid quarterly.
What other obstacles do you face as a young journalist?
As a reporter you see rot in society and you want to expose, but then you may have challenge with your media house. It could be that what you want to do does not pass the editorial gate or the story has been changed. Sometimes the editing might affect the outcome of your story. You might find a story that you would like to do but if it is not in line with your media house interest, they might not get it published. Journalism is mainly driven here in Ghana by passion because it does not pay and it is really killing the dreams of young journalists.
There is no security for journalists. Safety of journalists in Ghana is not guaranteed. You receive threats and sometimes people connive with the police to hurt you, the police that are supposed to protect you by law.
Have you personally experienced threats and dangerous situations?
Yes, yes! There is this story I went to do and, in the process, people were calling on phone and threatening me anyhow. It was a story about the privatization of the Songhor Lagoon [salt mining]. It has been leased to an investor. During previous governments it had been enacted that the Lagoon would never be given to a single person. The entire livelihood of the people has been given to one person. Now everyone depends on that only person. As a journalist I was thinking that the human rights of the people were being violated so I was trying to highlight that.
What was the first news story you have ever covered?
My first story was aired on Radio Ada and it was about my hometown people lamenting how they were robbed. While airing the story, I was interviewed live on radio. But exactly one week after the story, thieves attacked the village again and shot some of the residents, two are currently paralyzed. My first story for GNA was about the land commission urging Ghanaians to use proper means to acquire lands to avoid litigations. Since GNA is an agency, my story was then distributed all over Ghana.
What is your favourite part about journalism?
My favourite part of journalism is when people trust me with their stories and I have to tell it for them. Depending on the nature of the story, sometimes you feel that empathy and tell their stories well. For instance, sometimes you have to go to the village, stay there and let the mosquitoes bite you in other to tell the story well.
My plan is to do outstanding and impactful stories. Anas Aremeyaw Anas is my idol, I admire him so much. I want to become one of the renowned journalists from Africa through my work. I want to expose rot in the society and restore hope in the vulnerable.
Almost all the stories are impactful. My most impactful story was about a road in my hometown. During the rainy season, people’s homes were flooded. The bridge where the water pass was very small. So, I did a story about it and after publication the road got fixed.
Another story highlighted the plight of my people living without toilet facility and lights. That particular story has caught national attention.
What are your tips for future journalists?
I would like to encourage young people like me to engage more in doing impactful stories. Nothing is impossible and so whatever you set your mind on, you will be able to achieve it. Always tell the stories of the voiceless. Always use yourself as your best security. I am from a very poor background, so you can do it as well. Just be observant, listen well, talk less, work hard and pray to God for success.