By Lindsay Boyle
On Monday, July 9, the first International Mass Media summer course was held in Copeland Hall at the Ohio University campus. During each class, two SUSI scholars give a lecture about their own country’s media systems, journalism practices and political cultures. All of the lectures are streamed live through Ohio University distance learning and are available online to 35 students who are taking a summer class instructed by Dr. Brook Beshah.
The SUSI summer institute — in which scholars from all over the world come to the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at OU to study journalism and media — is funded by an annual renewable grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Study of the U.S. Branch in the Office of Academic Exchange Programs.
Dr. Wilberforce Dzisah
Dr. Wilberforce Dzisah began his presentation with a brief history of media in Ghana. He emphasized the struggles of newspapers and other media outlets through the many dictatorships and totalitarian regimes that existed in Ghana between 1957 — when it gained independence — and 1992.
In Ghana today, however, Dzisah explained that media often lean liberal or even socialist. He said that it is not unusual for media stories — especially those of private media — to criticize governmental actions. Ghana’s constitution, unlike the constitutions of some other African countries, allows freedom of the press and prohibits censorship.
A regulatory body called the National Communications Authority is responsible for granting licenses, authorizing operations and establishing and monitoring the quality of media services in Ghana.
SUSI scholars and staff listen as Dr. Wilberforce Dzisah presents a lecture that is streamed live through OU distance learning, and is available online.
According to Dzisah, some media outlets in Ghana are state-owned, while others have private ownership. He explained that, until 2000, those that were state-owned were the biggest threat to journalistic freedom, because an existing criminal libel law allowed politicians to frequently raise lawsuits against journalists.
In 2000, however, new leadership repealed that law. Dzisah said that the responsibility of media in Ghana has now mostly shifted toward ensuring democratic accountability and responsibility. Dzisah explained that Ghana’s political system is called a parliamentary democracy.
In Ghana, there are about 100 newspapers in circulation, and radio is still a very prominent medium. Though the Internet is not yet a primary method for obtaining news in Ghana, Dzisah said that the amount of people in Ghana who are joining the online world is increasing.
Dr. Aysha Abughazzi
In scholar Dr. Aysha Abughazzi’s overview of Jordan, she explained that it became independent in 1946 and is currently under a constitutional monarchy.
Abughazzi went on to explain the different types of media in Jordan, which include news agencies, broadcast stations, public television and several kinds of printed publications. She said that media in Jordan can be either publicly or privately owned.
Jordanians, however, are less likely to rely on TV and radio than on printed publications, according to Abughazzi. That is because the government sometimes monitors TV and radio groups, such as the Jordan Radio and Television Corporation, quite closely.
Jordan’s first newspaper launched in 1936 and was printed in Palestine. Abughazzi said that, today, daily newspapers are the most trusted by Jordanians, followed by weekly papers, then online publications. Because a censorship of sorts — self-censorship by journalists — exists in Jordan, Abughazzi explained that people there are likely to read both state and private papers in order to obtain news.
Dr. Aysha Abughazzi gives a vote of thanks speech at the SUSI Welcome Dinner.
In 1997, one of the strictest publication laws in Jordan's history allowed the government to jail journalists if it did not approve of what they wrote. However, that law was outlawed within a few years of its endorsement. Regardless, many journalists still practice self-censorship concerning topics sensitive to Jordanian ethics or morals, or to the king, for fear of governmental threats of fines, detention or otherwise.
Despite such infringements on the freedom of the press, Jordan’s high literacy rate and high level of technological connectivity allow its citizens to have several sources of information. Many events are covered, and social media often play a role in what those events are.
So far, Abughazzi said she has enjoyed everyone's International Mass Media class presentations, because she has been learning about things she may not have otherwise learned.
“I thought that their presentations were enlightening,” she said of fellow SUSI scholars. “The fact is that sometimes you have certain stereotypes, you’re an outsider, you don’t know how things go on, but now you have somebody to disillusion those ideas.”
Friday, July 13, 2012
By Lindsay Boyle