Mr Amos Safo-The Writer

The agenda by the western countries and western media to undermine Ghana’s cocoa industry dates to several years when they started raising concerns over of the use of child labour on cocoa farms. While I will in no way condone any form of child exploitation, I think the issue of child labour on cocoa farms is either misconstrued or an orchestrated western plan to destabilise Ghana, whose economy largely depends on cocoa exports.

Last week the Qatar-based television network published a report that accused Ghana’s cocoa farmers of using child labour on their cocoa farms. In the report Al Jazeera, stated that the use of child labour, has risen in cocoa farms in Ghana during the past decade despite industry promises to reduce it. The report alleged that the prevalence of children doing hazardous work, including using sharp tools, has become common practice on Ghana’s cocoa farms. Remember Ghana is   the world’s second largest cocoa producers and together with La Cote d’Ivoire have been pressuring western consumers to pay equitable prices for the commodity. 

However, later investigations revealed that the Arab media network breached basic journalistic codes of investigation and reporting, by using subterfuge to get videos of children on cocoa farms.  The Al Jazeera crew were reported to have presented themselves as officials of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) before they were allowed to do the filming.

A few days after the news made headlines, cocoa farmers at Ohiampeanika in the Amenfi West District in the Western Region, where the filming was done described the news as criminal. According to a spokesman of the cocoa farmers Al Jazeera filmed them at their cocoa farms under the guise of being officials of Ghana Cocoa Board. The Al Jazeera reporter told the unsuspecting farmers that they were there to document their challenges to help provide solutions. The fact the filming was done on Sunday attests to my conclusion that Al Jazeera was on a mission to undermine the cocoa sector and Ghana’s economy.

Officials of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) have affirmed that the Al Jazeera broadcast was bound to have a dire impact on the cocoa industry. Speaking at the Public Accounts Committee meeting, the Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Mr.  Joseph Boahen Aidoo insisted that the report was staged-managed to tarnish the image of Ghana’s cocoa sector.


Both mainstream and online media quoted a former Assembly member for the area, Samuel Ofori Asare, who featured in the Al Jazeera report as accusing Al Jazeera of unethical conduct.  Mr Asare explained that the Al Jazeera crew prevailed on them to get some children to accompany them to their farms to carry baskets of cocoa pods for filming as part of the official visit. The farmers acted in good faith and arranged for some children to accompany them to the farms.

While on the farm the Al Jazeera journalist convinced the farmers to use the machete to harvest the pods from the tree for the children to open them for the filming.  Sadly, after the filming the last thing they heard was that their faces were on Al Jazeera television across the world. “We don’t use children or engage in child labour in our cocoa production, and it is therefore wrong for Al Jazeera to visit us on Sunday and pose as COCOBOD officials and staged a scene to support their assumption and broadcast it to the world,” Asare told the media.

Legal action

More reports from the community indicate that the farmers are considering suing Al Jazeera for criminalising cocoa production in Ghana. I have also gathered that the police are investigating the case and have appealed to all participants in the discussion and in the processes leading to the filming to cooperate with them. In fact, the unethical filming and publication, which was orchestrated to tarnish the image of Ghana should not be taken lightly by our political leaders. Apart from the collateral damage to Ghana’s brand identity, the report has wider ramifications in terms of cocoa prices and the economy. This is not the first time the cocoa sector has come under foreign media attack; what is different is that it is Al Jazeera and not the BBC or CNN that are leading the assault. What shocks me is the involvement of Al Jazeera television network in the latest design to deepen the plight of Ghana’s struggling economy.  Therefore, the government must pursue this case through every international channel and ensure that Al Jazeera is held accountable for the agenda to destroy the backbone of our economy. At this critical time of our economic downturn, the least Ghanaians expected was a media assault on a sector that provides the bulk of our revenue and employment.

Alternative voice?

My understanding was that Al Jazeera was established to provide an alternative voice for developing countries to counter the BBC, CNN, FOX, CSBC and other transnational western media that have become the new missionaries of neo-colonialism and imperialism. For ages, the characterization of Africa in the Western media was caused by the effects of colonialism, which gave false impressions that Africa is a lost case.  Rather, than countering this negative portrayal of Africa, Al Jazeera is trying to mimic these western media through the publications of stories on Africa that tend to undermine African initiatives. Of course, a chunk of the editors at AL Jazeera are either western journalists or those trained in western journalism schools, where they were brainwashed and fed with stereotyped western theories and concepts. A few are our unfortunate African brothers and sisters just pleasing their employers to make ends meet.

This goes to confirm that since history the Arab world has been in alliance with the west to enslave and denigrate Africa and jointly present the continent as hopeless. Perhaps, this is one agenda in which the Arabs and the west find a common ground, to keep Africa under the water for the continuous exploitation of her resources and labour. I dare say that there are more child labourers of African descent in the Arab world than in any other part of the world. I challenge Al Jazeera to film and publish the horrifying and dehumanizing conditions under which African immigrants are held in Qatar and other Arab countries. Why is it that it is Africa that is always attracting all the negative headlines in the western media and now in Al Jazeera?

Dominant orthodoxies

For ages, the parading of malnourished and naked African children in front of cameras and images of lions and gorillas in the jungle, have dominated most Western and Arab media news outlets.  In his book, “News: The Politics of Illusion”, W. Lance Bennett discusses how news is created and consumed in the Western world. The author identifies four types of structural media biases that dominate western news presentation, which are the personalization bias, dramatization, fragmentation and the authority-disorder bias. The western media mostly deploy some of the biases when reporting on Africa.

Bennett defines the personalization bias as the focus on human-interest and emotional stories rather than presenting the larger social, economic or political issues. The focus on emotion tends to overshadow the analysis of the event and its implications for the social and political arenas. For example, during the Ebola outbreak, which only affected a few regions in four West African countries the western media painted a picture that the entire continent had been affected by the epidemic.

In the western media, and perhaps, in Al Jazeera (my emphasis), there are first-world diseases and third-world diseases, and the attention devoted to the latter depends on the threat they pose to Africa, not on a universal measure of human suffering, says Bennett.  Fairness and objectivity in news reporting demands that a death in Africa should be as tragic as a death in Europe or the USA, but this has never been the case. During the height of COVID 19, the deaths of other races were presented by western media as heart-breaking, while African deaths were presented as normal.

According to Bennett the dramatization bias also called (the crisis news), is presented on a narrative storytelling format. An example was the 1984-1985 famine which affected some parts of Ethiopia and other East African countries. Images of malnourished infants with flies in their food and mouths were beamed globally to imprint on the minds of western audience that all Africans were starving to death although the famine affected only some regions of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Bennett points out that these “visual messages reinforce the dominant cultural attitudes and values”, which are often stereotypes ungirded by myths that Africans are sub-human. 


Some scholars believe that in a keenly competitive global market, where all countries are competing for direct investment, the negative portrayal of Africa is designed to discourage investors and tourists from coming to Africa. Baffour Ankomah, the editor of New African magazine once said, “In today’s globalized world, where everybody is fighting for a place in the economic sun, a positive portrayal of Africa in the Western media will mean that Africa, on whose natural resources Western economies depend, may get more investments and may even dare to use its resources develop itself.”

Malleable African media

One of the dilemmas facing Africa is the failure of our media and journalists to decolonize and dewesternise their minds and operations. Decolonisation and dewesternisation are grounded in the notion that non-African scholars, and for that matter non-African journalists with little knowledge about Africa continue to narrate African stories.   A key consequence of colonialism is that Western knowledge is presented in journalism and media books as universal. African media has been criticized for failing to market and advertise the true identity of the continent to the world.  Decolonisation is thus an attempt to break with Western modernity, search for alternative worldviews and radically change the old notions of Africa.

In a collection of writings titled “Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of African Language and Literature Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, argues that many African media have failed to position their own correspondents in strategic locations in Africa to provide African perspectives on emerging issues.  As a result, information from major conflicts in Africa, is reported through the lens of western sources, and this distorted news are often culled or quoted verbatim by African media without cautious verification. According to Professor Aseka, a Fulbright scholar “African media have failed to aggressively market an African identity and authenticity to challenge the one imposed by the West.” In addition, he believes this has led to an evasion of responsibility and the obfuscation that is characteristic of inauthentic existence.

Apart from decolonization and dewesternisation African scholars are advocating the, Africanisation of African journalism studies and practice. Africanisation is an attempt at salvaging what has been stolen from Africa. Some scholars have buttressed the point that Africanising journalism and media curricular should empower African scholars to contribute to new knowledge systems and counter the dominance of Western knowledge.   Such changes would make journalism education and practice more relevant to African societies.