Truth over speed: Speech By Mr Ebenezer Asante, Senior Vice President For MTN Group, Markets


First of all, I wish to pay my profoundest respects to our Chairman, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, the Okyenhene, who in this year is celebrating his 25th anniversary on the Ofori Panin Stool of Akyem Abuakwa. We recall all the efforts made in the field of the environment and allied concerns and, we all join to wish Nana a most auspicious anniversary.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour to stand before you today as the Guest Speaker at the launch of Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng’s book, “Truth over Speed.” This remarkable book underscores the power of collaboration, dedication, and the critical role of quality journalism, for that matter free speech and thought in our democracy. We must constantly remind ourselves that democracy is an essential means to an end in delivering total human development and dignity to our people.

Our long history of undignified imperialist domination and colonialism must teach us that true freedom from poverty, social ills, underdevelopment in all forms is the ultimate goal of democracy. We must be seen to be working much harder through authentic inspiration from our leaders for collective citizens mobilization to the same end.  This should be the focus of journalism and media in the African context, as a key lever for sustainable democracy.

Providing context

Over the past decade, MTN has collaborated with Media in general and Nana Gyan-Appenteng in particular in many aspects of media capacity building of which I was a beneficiary during my tenure with MTN Ghana. I am happy to note that the collaboration remains strong under the leadership of Adwoa Wiafe, the Executive who now leads the Corporate Services and Sustainability division. Thank you Adwoa for sustaining the momentum and building on what your predecessors – Mawuena Dumor of blessed memory, Cynthia Lumor and Samuel Koranteng did.

I proudly extend my heartfelt commendations to MTN Ghana’s Communication Team led by Gina Asare Fiagbenu, a woman of many invaluable parts and no 1 Private sector media advocate. The team’s support for media professionals and commitment to fostering journalism excellence has been instrumental in inspiring this book. Such partnerships are crucial reminders of the power of collaboration in achieving our shared goals.

It’s worth noting that the book we are launching was compiled from media capacity sessions with MTN held in all 16 regions of Ghana over the course of one year. And let me add that the team have been holding regional Media and Stakeholder engagements consistently for more than a decade is no mean achievement.

This book is on the back of decade long relationships between MTN Ghana, media and literary work in general. We first met Nana Gyan-Appenteng during MTN Ghana’s telecoms capacity building workshop for journalist through an introduction by Professor Kwame Karikari. Prof Karikari as the founder of Media Foundations for West Africa and an eminent communications trainer and coach has himself collaborated with MTN Ghana in many areas of capacity building in the past.

Many years of work with the Ghana Journalist Association, their executives past and present, as well as the media fraternity across the country have also helped. Past association with Pan African Writers Association through the late Prof Atukwai Okai, collaboration with Prof Ivor Agyeman Duah to catalogue aspects of Telecoms history in Ghana and others we are yet to commence demonstrates the special interests MTN has in not only providing the infrastructure for communication and connectivity but ensuring quality of same so our Ghanaian subscribers and Africans in general can derive more from their digital life.

The Book

And now to the theme of the book – Truth over Speed. Paradoxically, the title gives enough away but a hefty lot is still buried in there. One can look at it simply as prioritizing Truth over Speed. Afterall it is said in Akan, “Ye soma oba nyansafoo, yensoma anamon teteen”. To wit, It’s a race for the diligent and not merely for the swift. The import is to get it well, right and to effect the desired societal change.

Truth over Speed can also be seen as Truth overtaking Speed in all journalism racing. Meaning when you dwell on the truth as the primary motivation of your journalism and indeed any profession, that impact will go farther than speed alone can take you. In other words, truth will give you acceleration, lasting speed with purpose and direction. Two skills are important here, one is very warm, and the other is cold and can be lonely – Passion and Detachment. Passion in search, pursuit or adding to the search for the truth. Detachment in knowing that it is not about you but the good of society. Following the path even if the truth reveals in the end, that you were wrong. It can be difficult, huh!

The reality that consumers of information want both Truth and Speed must be recognized – tyranny of AND as my boss the MTN Group President will remind. We all pay attention to break-in news, lets face it, there is also the feel-good element being the bearer of first news. It can also be commercially rewarding for media entrepreneurs and journalists alike who can calve the niche to be the first to inform or break important stories. Prime-mover positioning is a well-known source of competitive advantage so there is no doubt there. That cannot however be an excuse if we apply the detached passion principle. We can balance Truth and Speed, to get both acceptably right for the benefit of the audience.

The notion of truth is itself very tricky, philosophically speaking. If truth is as you genuinely know it, see it and indeed believe it, then the question will be valid in asking whose truth? The whole truth, your truth or my truth? At the limits of infinity, the truth may be one and absolute but we as humans do not always operate there, therefore the need for balanced objectivity and having the humility to accept that despite the best efforts, judgement and discretion of the journalist or in everyday communication, things can still go wrong in accurately reporting facts, figures and outcomes.

All because truth can be such a stubborn thing to deal with. The truth also extends the message to the messenger. Of what value can you hold others accountable, speak your truth to power, hold corruption in check, when you personally cannot pass such tests at the personal moral and integrity levels? It’s very easy to lie with the truth stubbornly.

It is no wonder we continue to wallop in under-development and a good proportion of our population operate at levels way below acceptable standards of human dignity. We cannot develop on the basis of non-truthful free speech, hypocritical purveying of the truth and not governing by the truth that serves the just and noble national interest. We are becoming a nation of pretenders, yet majority of us proclaim to know the truth in Christ!

Venerable Nana Kwasi Gyan-Appenteng, through his book is reminding us to get back to the bare essentials of communicating and building facts based, data-driven society.

Social Media or Anti-Social Mobilisation?

As a tele-digital communications company, MTN provides the platform for information exchanges, person-to-person-to-many connectivity. The good use of the platform to promote human and development good remains essential business sustainability component. Today, social media has created petty lay journalists all over the digital media scene. The rush to share or break the news first leads to all manner of fake news circulation without any sense of responsibility, shame or modicum of remorse.

When the question of message authenticity is posed, the response often received from senders, “Oh I saw it on another platform, blog or some publication source”. Since when did a mere source of a message become the truth and accurate reflection of reality? How about the five facts checks before pressing the send button – First fact is the credible source, second fact is the basis, third fact is the accuracy, fourth fact is whether its proven, having checked all, fifth is to judge yourself if its well-meaning or edifying. Social media is like a marketplace, everyone is sharing messages/content they consumed but pushing the responsibility for their authenticity back and forth. An age-old position in our traditional system should remind us that you the sender is ultimately,  responsible for the message you share or transmit, no matter your source.

Though not wholly justifiable, journalists must recognize this reality that their misreporting in a digital world where memories are indelible, can become a source of lie in viral circulation into perpetuity. I’m not sure that is the legacy they would want to leave. The value of good, careful communication recognizes the pivotal role of responsible free and independent media in promoting democratic values and good governance. By supporting initiatives like “Truth over Speed,” MTN demonstrates its dedication to cultivating a culture of transparency, accountability, and fact-based reporting.

Some Call to Action

To ensure that our media landscape is genuinely vibrant, diverse, and an authentic representative of our society, we must continue to promote media literacy, support independent media outlets through progressive policies, and encourage responsible journalism. Starting with the ethical standing of the journalist as a person, their belief and respect for the truth and preeminence of facts. This must go beyond their ability to communicate clearly and finely. Private sector players like MTN and others must play their part by investing in good quality media capacity building and development initiatives.

By so doing we would support in creating the future fit, well-resourced authentic media needed for our developmental aspirations. This is where the quality of media houses, ownership, their governance, all the way to how media practitioners are remunerated should not be left unchecked. If we do take our democracy seriously, then it is long overdue to sanitise the space, promote policies that will build scalable, strong and reputable media houses to churn quality work and adequately reward good quality media professionals and attract more.

Quality journalism is the bedrock of democracy. It holds those in power accountable, holds those holding others accountable (like the media itself) accountable, gives voice to the marginalized, and provides empowered citizens with the information they need to make informed decisions. In today’s world, where misinformation and disinformation are rampant, the need for quality journalism is more urgent than ever.

Why bother still bother in the end?

Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng’s “Truth over Speed” is a proof of his commitment to the highest standards of journalism. His immense contributions to the profession, his dedication to fact-based reporting, and his responsible journalism are a source of inspiration for us all.

As we gather here to celebrate the launch of ‘Truth over Speed, let us not forget our role in shaping the media landscape. Each one of us has a part to play in supporting and promoting quality journalism. Let’s work together to build a media landscape that is truly free, independent, and responsible.

“Truth over Speed” is an invaluable resource for seasoned and aspiring journalists. I have made time to glance through the book and I am genuinely impressed with its rich content. The book highlights the importance of fact-based reporting, responsible journalism, and the ethical standards that guide the profession. This book has the potential to significantly enhance journalists’ ongoing education, equipping them with the best practices and refining their skills.

This book is a treasure trove of knowledge and guidance for student journalists. It provides practical tips and insights that will help them navigate the challenges of our profession and inspire a commitment to excellence.

It is no doubt that good journalism is a catalyst for our nation’s development and key in the formation of decisions that shape our nation’s future.

In conclusion, let me say once again that it is well in place to celebrate the launch of “Truth over Speed” as a significant milestone in our collective journey toward promoting quality journalism and information integrity in Ghana. Let us recognize this book as a vital resource for journalists and encourage its widespread adoption as well as appreciate the author. Together, let us continue to support, invest in and promote good journalism, building a media landscape that is truly free, authentic, and responsible as a critical ingredient for our human development search.

He spoke at the launch of Truth Over Speed

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