Journalists in Ghana yesterday joined their counterparts the world over to observe World Press Freedom Day. It is a day set aside by the United Nations to focus on the work of the media, otherwise referred to as the Fourth Estate of the Realm.
The media of communication is a very critical change agent that helps shape the mindset of the people.
That is why one of the foremost leaders of the United States of America (USA) made that profound statement about the media many years ago.
When asked to make a choice between the media and the government, President Thomas Jefferson said: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter…”
In a message to mark the day, the United Nations said: “In a post-truth world with fake news on the rise and media accountability falling under question, free independent and professional journalism has never been more important.”
The critical role of the media on national development has never been lost on any government willing to give voice to the people to hold public office holders to account.
The United Nations Secretary General’s message to the world on World Press Freedom Day said in part: “… And we need everyone to stand for our right to truth… when we protect journalists, their words and pictures can change our world.”
In Ghana, the people have, since 1992, given the media the pride of place. The 1992 Constitution guarantees the freedom and independence of the media. The state is also debarred from interfering in the operations of the state-owned media.
The military interregnums that we have had in the course of our 60-year history have always censored the media and, therefore, when another opportunity came, the people decided to insulate the state-owned media from governmental control.
Although a section of society believes that the Ghanaian media are too free, another school of thought thinks the frontiers must be expanded further to make the work of journalists more fruitful without roadblocks.
So far, Ghana has been doing well on the freedom of the press index, except for a few years in the recent past when our performance has not been very good.
It is for this reason that we are not happy that it has taken our governments almost two decades to pass the Right to Information (RTI) and the Broadcasting bills into law.
The Akufo-Addo administration has made the pledge to see to the passage of the RTI Bill this year.
Similar pledges were made in the past, except that those promises were not backed by concrete action, and that is why the bill is still not a piece of legislation.
Mr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, the Minister of Information, has assured the nation that the campaign for the passage of the RTI Bill is likely to end between May and July 2017 with the passage of the bill.
The Daily Graphic is not cynical about the pledges. We are sceptical, though, but we hope that the government will facilitate the processes for the passage of the bill into law to enhance transparency in governance and also empower the people to hold their government to account.