World Press Freedom Day: Our mandate to protect environment

The celebration of World Press Freedom Day today provides another opportunity to appreciate Ghana’s media, celebrate media practitioners, assess the local media space in terms of expectations and performance, and analyse the challenges and potential in the context of relevant factors.

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This year’s commemoration is more than just another occasion to make statements and hold public fora simply to fulfil all righteousness. It is a reminder of the role of the media and journalists in the sustenance of the environment as a platform for the very survival of the human race.

The celebration, with the global theme: “A press for the planet: Journalism in the face of the environmental crisis”, is, indeed, even more relevant to the Ghanaian situation, given the local issues of concern regarding the environment.

At a time when the nation is still embroiled in the fight against illegal mining, commonly called galamsey in local parlance, and its attendant effects on the environment, the role of the media and journalists as lead actors in the effort to curb the situation cannot be over-emphasised.

The United Nations in its message on the occasion, said: “In 2024, World Press Freedom Day is dedicated to the importance of journalism and freedom of expression in the context of the current global environmental crisis”.

The world body adds that “journalists encounter significant challenges in seeking and disseminating information on contemporary issues, such as supply-chains problems, climate, migration, extractive industries, illegal mining, pollution, poaching, animal trafficking, deforestation or climate change. Ensuring the visibility of these issues is crucial for promoting peace and democratic values worldwide”.

At different levels of the local environment, the nation contends with a sanitation crisis driven by poor management of plastic waste, in particular, and a somewhat related case of a perennial cycle of flooding in different parts of the country.

Meanwhile, despite efforts to reclaim vast swathes of depleted forest cover through the conscious implementation of the annual Green Ghana Day, other human activities continue to subtract from the patriotic action. At the last count, over 40 million trees are supposed to have been planted through the Green Ghana Day initiative.

In each of the scenarios, the media and journalists become important partners in the national effort to redeem troubling issues of environmental challenges that threaten human survival.

 The media and journalists are, therefore, expected to highlight the galamsey menace, forest degradation, sanitation situation, among others, and their consequences, and complement them with the relevant efforts to correct the different situations.

Striking a good balance between coverage on the environment and maintaining the sanity of the media space is crucial to achieving the ultimate objective of throwing light on matters of environmental concern. This way, the media will retain the trust of society and receive the necessary support to achieve set goals.

It must be stated that the Ghanaian media and journalists have been ahead of the situation by championing the fight against galamsey through the formation of the Media Coalition Against Galamsey in 2017.

It was a farsighted effort that placed Ghanaian media and journalists at the forefront of the dangerous but nationalistic action to contain a situation that could consume the entire country.

Indeed, the galamsey subject in particular has become a life-and-death case for the media and journalists, given the sophistication that illegal miners have acquired lately in readiness for anticipated showdowns with security agencies.

As the UN further stated, “to achieve sustainable development, it is necessary for journalists to report accurately, timely and comprehensively on environmental issues and their consequences, as well as on possible solutions”.

We fully endorse the submission by the UN, and urge the media to exhibit the highest standards in environmental reporting for the stated objective of achieving sustainable development.

It should be a matter of pride for Ghana that the reigning Ghana Journalists Association-sponsored Journalist of the Year, Erastus Asare Donkor, achieved the feat with his daring and impressive reporting on matters of the environment.

While wishing the media and journalists the best in their endeavours, we call on the state to intensify efforts to protect journalists and the media to achieve better press freedom to promote development.

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