Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Moving Blogs!

It's become a recent tradition here for me to return from a long absence to apologize for not writing and I won't break that tradition today: sorry! Whether you recently stumbled across the blog or you've been reading for awhile, thanks for your patience and your readership.

In the spirit of trying harder, I have in fact started a new blog that I hope you will enjoy as much as you enjoyed (I hope... *gulp*) this one.

I will try and transfer all my blog posts from here to there, so in case you're subscribed to my RSS feed, make sure to update it to that of the new blog (http://kobigraham.wordpress.com/feed/)

Don't forget to let me know what you think. Feedback is always, always welcome.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Misunderstanding 'Madness'

If you are reading this, then I put it to you that you are ignorant; that you have lack the ability to exhibit any signs of intelligence. Even worse, I think you’re incapable of emerging from your state of ignorance.


Good. What you have just experienced is an iota of the prejudice faced by Ghanaians struggling with mental illness.

Here in Ghana, we use the word ‘mad’ to describe anyone exhibiting any degree of mental illness, like we are qualified doctors prescribing some incurable disease we are all experts on. We extend the word to cover anyone who exhibits any sign of consistent irregular behaviour. If they are ‘lucky’, we treat them like outcasts. If that person is really unlucky though, they may find themselves in church with a pastor holding their their head, chanting “shabalababalalalaba” over them.

Very few of us have any real understanding of mental illness, how many different kinds of mental illnesses there are, whether any of its many forms can be cured and how to deal with it when we are confronted by it.
Georgina Pipson, the 33 year-old mother suspected to have poisoned her five children at Nyanoa in the Central Region, died in hospital this morning after having earlier tried to commit suicide.

Many people began judging this woman before her death with the same level of judgement they would apply to someone cold, calculating and in full possession of their mental faculties (PS: Lady Jaye has since corrected me here, reminding me that just because someone has a mental illness does not mean they are never lucid. See her comment).

Some will say Georgina got what she deserved, while others may say she should have stayed alive to face the criminal consequences of her alleged actions. What very few people will however wonder is what was the extent of her mental ailment and whether this dire tragedy could have been avoided by dealing with it effectively.

Think about it this way. If - with your full faculties - you have ever found it difficult to control your thoughts, words or emotions; buying something on impulse although it makes no sense, or falling in love with the wrong person even though you know they will hurt you, then imagine how hard it is for someone with a mental illness is to control their thoughts, words and emotions.

Murder is still not justified in such circumstances, but there is a reason why it is possible for people to make insanity or reduced capability pleas in a court defence. Why? Because it has implications for establishing  mens rea and actus reas (intention and action), the two things that need to be established before someone can be found guilty for a crime.

Media reports suggest Georgina Pipson had been in and out of Kpantang and was receiving medical treatment for her condition. No one has said anything about exactly what her condition was, what the symptoms are of that condition (was it schizophrenia, for example?), whether she had made any progress, whether she was taking her medication and if not, why not.

If we fail to ask and demand answers to these questions, then we are setting the tone for this kind of tragedy to happen again and when it does, we will only have ourselves to blame.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Interview: Ladysmith Black Mambazo

(To Crystal, Emmanuel and Esi: thanks for the encouragement.)

I owe this one to Twitter.

First thing in the morning, journalists in the Joy FM newsroom scramble for newspapers, trawl through Ghanaweb or call up their contacts for stories (don't worry: I don't think I just gave away any big trade secrets). Seeing as everyone has those media covered, I make it a point to be that strange guy who goes online. I ran a search for 'Ghana' on Twitter and came across  a tweet about Ladysmith Black Mambazo doing a benefit concert for Ghanaian kids. Yes, it was in Washington... but it was for Ghanaian kids and that was enough to make the story relevant to a local audience. I found who their press agent was from their website and sent them an email, asking if I could interview a band member. By evening, she'd gotten back to me and the answer was 'yes'. Isn't the internet fantastic?

Anyway, here's the interview:


Sadly, we didn't air the interview in the end. It was my fault, really. Although my heart was in the right place, there were several things wrong with the report.

For one, it was too long. Although there are moves to change this, Joy News is somewhat politics-driven. It's unfortunately what our listeners respond to the most. I was very dismayed the other day when more listeners responded to a story on political clashes in Agbogbloshie than the news that half of the nation's young BECE applicants had failed, but that's just the way it is. As such, there was no way Joy was going to give 3.25 precious minutes of Newsnight to a general entertainment story vaguely linked to Ghana. In the end, I trimmed the fat off and we played a brief excerpt from the report as a smaller news item.

Secondly, Paul Simon. Much as 'Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes' is a great song, I gave too much prominence to it for a song on which the group mainly sing backup.  And it was a little too loud. In my defense, it was one of the first reports I ever did for Joy. I'm still pretty proud of it.

After all, I did get to interview someone from a group I dig.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

10 Questions: Ato Kwamina Dadzie

Another day, another apology for not having blogged in ages. Got my laptop repaired though and I'm almost back online at home, so expect improvements in that department :o)

I finally sat down with Ghana's most irreverent journalist (c), Ato Kwamina Dadzie and, as promised, I threw all your questions at him. Click here to listen to what he had to say. It was a 25-minute chat and it was both fun and informative, especially for anyone curious about challenges facing people chasing the news in Ghana. I was personally most intrigued by the journalists who taught him not to give a **** and his thoughts on political bias in the Ghanaian media.

I'm looking for a better way to post it to the blog besides Sendspace, so anyone with any ideas should let me know. We did the interview after work in the Joy FM news so you can still hear phones going off, Nathaniel Attoh furiously typing in the background and a couple of journalists engaged in a shouting match... sorry, I meant passionate debate in the background. It'll take awhile to transcribe, but I'll put up some quotables soon.

It's good to be back.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Interview: Questions for Ato Kwamina Dadzie

It's been just over a month since I started working in the Joy FM newsroom and one of the best things about the experience so far has been watching one of my favourite Ghanaian journalists in action.

Ato Kwamina Dadzie is hands-down the country's funniest commentator. One listen to his newspaper reviews on the Super Morning Show, his Not-News segment on the Weekend City Show or a read of any of his blog articles should be enough to confirm this to anyone with any doubts.

Even better than all that though, Ato's been kind enough to agree to an interview on this blog so I figured I would throw it over to you.

All questions welcome. No holds barred (I think).