[Opinion] Dear Manasseh Azure Awuni

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Sir,

Good Morning.

This has been most painful for me to write due to our enduring bond of friendship. For though we are often divided by various things and causes to see the small picture differently, we both recognise that the bigger picture is an accelerated and sustained development of our motherland Ghana for the benefit of her citizens. It was that bigger picture which led you to expose those who criminally laundered bribes through the exchange of a Ford Expedition and the subsequent financial loss Ghana has suffered four years on. I dare not betray a confidence, or I would have spoken of that man who made you that offer of a house, so you kill that story. I can understand why you would be bitter concerning that man. Yet, Sir, there is an apparent plot you have hatched in the bitterness of your heart, far away from the lights of objectivity which still radiates in other parts of you, to ridicule the current administration and the current President as thugs.

Sir, this bitter-vindictive mix you consumed after the GJA adjudged your militant documentary to be unethical appears to have moved you to adopt another unethical and substandard piece of journalistic work, in an unethical and illegal manner.

May I remind you, Sir, that Guideline 12 of the GJA Code of Ethics requires journalists not to plagiarise ‘because it is unethical and illegal’.

In an article published on The Medium,which I am happy to share with you, plagiarism in journalism was classified into three.

First, there is the plagiarism of information which is using information another reporter has gathered without crediting them or their publication. Secondly, there is the plagiarism of writing, that is when a reporter directly copies segment/segments of another reporter’s story and uses it in their article. And third, there is plagiarism of ideas which is when a reporter has a idea or theory about a news issue and another reporter advances that theory as their own.

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In the publication on your website, Sir, you credit the authorship of the publication to a certain Edwin Appiah. Furthermore, you provide an email address. Sir, it is a logical inference from the two facts that you intended to lead the public to believe that, that publication was written by that person and for your organisation. However, in the article itself, there are suggestions that Multimedia originally authored the story. Indeed, a follow up to the website of Multimedia shows a publication which is materially the same as the one on your website. Where there is a difference, it is because in unethically and illegally trying to appropriate that story, your reporter doctored the opening paragraph to mislead the public into thinking they were reading two different reports. Sir, if you compare your conduct to the standard above, you shall find your conduct breaches all three grounds of plagiarism in journalism.

My dear brother, this alone warrants a swift apology from your website. Yet, if your heart is hardened, I suggest there are further ethical breaches which might move you.

Sir, as you ought to be aware, Guidelines 4 and 5 of the GJA Code of Ethics requires journalists to make adequate enquiries and cross-checks their facts as well as mould and verify the source of every information. Furthermore, Guideline 8 requires a journalist to differentiate between fact, opinion and commentary such that news is presented objectively without embellishments

The publication contained opinions which were presented as fact. That includes the opinion that the supposed armed men were National Security Operatives. The story contained no information which showed that the opinion was verified neither did it provide any information that the opinion was crossed-checked with relevant authorities before being published.

The Police, who were present, and were subjectively portrayed as indifferent without any evidence whatsoever, were not contacted on the identity of the supposed armed men.Sir, the allegation that the supposed armed men had issued threats was not checked with the Police as to whether a complaint had been filed or not. It would, therefore, amount to a careless embellishment. Yet, I do not make these allegations against you because the story was plagiarised.

Sir, I recognise you as an excellent journalist. You have been distinguished and honoured in the past, and justifiably, for good work in journalism. You did not achieve this on the back of being unethical, careless, nor reckless. The fact that many actions for defamation have risen and fallen against you is testament to your thoroughness. Yet, you have been twice caught unethically attempting to tag the current regime as pro-militia. I am therefore compelled to ask the question all reasonable men would ask: WHY? And to answer this, I, unfortunately, have to explore your motives.

Sir, after unethically and illegally plagiarising that unethical work as your own, you proceeded to social media to attack your Head of State. You, Sir, ought to have realised then that your attack was fabricated on a worthless exhibit of gutter journalism. It was an article which would at best be produced by an average first-year student, at an average media school, during his first week tasked to draft an imaginary report on government violence.

At worst, it is the work of a clever but mischievously motivated journalist, purposed and willed to distort facts and breach the rules of ethics, just so that they can create a narrative that allows them to pursue a selfish and vindictive agenda.

I think, against what might appear obvious, that this was the work of an average student. I make this choice in consideration of our friendship and a refusal to admit you have been so lost to your true self the sky has to be pointed to you. And so I say that you picked up the article from Multimedia by mistake and placed it on your site by mistake. And that the supposed Edwin Appiah misled you. He is the real culprit.

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You, therefore, acted in good faith. I mean all the time, you sincerely believed, that the President of Ghana would stage war by attacking Nigerian territory unprovoked. I even think that you know and understand the Vienna Convention so much that your alarm, like all reasonable men, was only because if National Security was involved, then this would have been a clear violation of the Convention terms by a State Party. I therefore think, against everything sensible, that you acted in good faith.

That is why I urge on you Guideline 15, which requires journalists to correct inaccuracies and mistakes at the earliest opportunity and offers a chance for a rejoinder and/or an apology as appropriate. Sir, you would understand at this point that you own the people of Ghana an apology and you own National Security a right of reply. Since you have introduced National Security into the picture, it is your absolute duty to establish as far as reasonable whether they were involved or not; or present sufficient facts based on which the public can form an opinion.

Sir, that is what makes you a journalist. That is what makes your work hard; what got you commended on Kanazoe and Jospong. Yet that is not what we are seeing you to be now. Let not bitterness blind you to blind yourself Sir. You are a journalist, every eye counts.

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