It may be banned, but the culture of brown-envelope journalism courses through the bloodstream of Ghana’s media industry. What is driving it? And what can be done to stop it eroding trust in the media?
Mostly it comes in the form of cold-hard cash. Other times it’s a meal or a hamper. And for a few, it can mean a free luxury holiday or a brand new car. In Ghana, the practice of companies or politicians offering gifts to the journalists that report on them is called “soli.” And it is rampant.
In a study commissioned by DW Akademie, two out of three Ghanaian journalists admitted accepting soli. Perhaps even more revealing is that just 14% of them understood the gifts as a form of bribery intended to influence their reporting. Some 66% viewed it as a token of appreciation. Soli is damaging the reputation of the country’s free press. Although the majority of journalists may be relaxed about it, the public is not. A full 52% consider it bribery, and two thirds of those asked about the culture of soli said they had a lack of trust in the media.
In their defense, journalists say it would be rude to reject the gifts. Some cite poor salaries as a factor. “It is a way of help so that I can do my job because of the economic situation,” one radio reporter said. Those offering the gifts are more explicit. They say it is to motivate the recipients to give them publicity. Soli is blurring the lines between independent media and communications. Why is soli so pervasive? What harm does it do? And can anything be done to clamp down on it and restore public faith in Ghana’s journalists? Read the full report here.