The launch of a GH¢2 million support fund by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) yesterday to assist journalists who are violated in line of duty is a welcome development.
The fund, known as the Journalists Support Fund (JSF), will, among others, be used to organise training and workshops on safety and security for members.
According to the President of the GJA, Albert Kwabena Dwumfour, who spoke at the function: "The era when journalists were assaulted but did not get justice due to lack of funds to pursue legal action will soon become history.” (See story on front page.)
We at the Daily Graphic are happy that the fund will go a long way to support journalists who are attacked by covering their medical and legal expenses to pursue justice.
We implore all stakeholders, including institutions and organisations, to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists. After all, journalism is not a crime.
The Daily Graphic believes that the safety of journalists is safety for all and very crucial for the promotion of freedom of speech, the rule of law and good governance.
That is why as the global community marked the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists yesterday, we draw attention to the level of impunity for crimes against journalists, which remains extremely high across the globe.
Ghana, like other countries, has had its fair share of violence or crimes against journalists in the past and present, thereby calling for more attention from all stakeholders.
In 2019, for instance, the 31-year-old investigative journalist Ahmed Hussein-Suale was gunned down in the vicinity of his Madina residence by unknown gunmen said to be riding a motorbike.
It has been three years since his life was callously snuffed out by suspected assassins. The police have since been on the tails of his killers, but to no avail yet.
The Daily Graphic urges the security apparatus to do everything possible to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of Hussein-Suale’s murder. Although the police initially arrested six persons on suspicion of their involvement in his killing, they were later released due to lack of evidence.
In many cases, threats of violence and attacks against journalists are not properly investigated. This allows impunity and emboldens the perpetrators who commit crimes and violence against journalists.
Impunity and crimes against journalists affect progress of media development, democracy, free speech and the rule of law in any society.
According to data from UNESCO, 55 journalists and media workers were killed in the world in 2021. In Africa, 11 of such heinous crimes occurred between January and September last year. While killings are the most extreme form of media censorship, journalists are also subjected to countless threats, ranging from kidnapping, torture and other physical attacks to harassment, particularly in the digital sphere.
Threats of violence and attacks against journalists, in particular, create a climate of fear for media professionals, impeding the free circulation of information, opinions and ideas for all citizens.
According to UNESCO’s discussion paper, The Chilling: Global trends in online violence against women journalists, 73 per cent of the women journalists surveyed said they had been threatened, intimidated and insulted online in connection with their work.
Impunity against journalists includes imprisonment, mistreatment at the hands of the security agencies, including the police and the military, threats and harassment from state or private actors, sexual violence, physical attacks and murder.
The Daily Graphic thinks that the failure to take action against those responsible for crimes and violence against journalists will open the floodgates of crimes against more journalists and media practitioners in Ghana and thereby stifle free press.
It is necessary for the state to investigate all threats, violence and attacks on journalists to ensure that those who suffer crimes and violence get justice.
We call for concerted efforts and a national plan of action to ensure the safety of journalists in the country. Indeed, we must work to protect journalists covering protests and elections and also media houses against attacks and closures.
We further believe that ending impunity for crimes against journalists is one of the most pressing issues to guarantee freedom of expression and access to information for all citizens in the country.
Arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists must be a thing of the past. Media organisations should also be encouraged and supported to ensure their own safety, while the difficulties that journalists go through in the discharge of their professional and constitutional mandate must be removed.
It is important for the journalist not to become the news but to tell the news.