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We must ensure freedom, dignity of the press

BY: Daily Graphic

A world without the media is unimaginable, yet journalists and media workers continue to suffer imprisonment, physical and emotional attacks that sometimes lead to the ultimate sacrifice - death.

Ghana, which until recently boasted credentials in press freedom in Africa and globally, has sadly plummeted in the latest rankings of Reporters Without Borders due to the killing of a Tiger Eye PI member, Ahmed Hussein-Suale, and the threat on his life prior to his murder.

Ghana has, therefore, lost its status as Africa’s best-ranked country in the World Press Freedom Index mainly due to the murder of investigative journalist Hussein-Suale on January 16, 2019.

In the 2019 World Press Freedom Index report, Ghana ranked 27 as against 23 in 2018.

While the media in Ghana is ruing its drop in the Freedom Index ranking, the Upper East Regional Correspondent for Starr FM, Edward Adeti, whose investigative work has led to the resignation of a Minister of State, has received death threats following the publication of his work.

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Recently, there was also an attack on three Ghanaian Times journalists — Malik Sulemana, Raissa Sambou and Salifu Abdul Rahman, by security agents and a physical attack on Jerry Azanduna of the Ghana News Agency in Bawku by political party activists.

Meanwhile the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has stated in a communique issued on the safety of journalists in Ghana last Thursday that from February 2018 to March 2019, 22 violations were recorded against media workers in Ghana, with 11 of them being direct attacks on journalists.

It is to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom throughout the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty, that World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993.

Indeed, the media needs the freedom to perform its core mandate of educating, informing and entertaining the public and we urge all sections of the public to see it as their duty to protect journalists wherever and whenever they see that the lives of media persons are under threat.

While we do not doubt that there may be excesses in the attempt by journalists to play their role to shape society, we believe that it is for such reasons that laws exist to put erring media persons in check.

It is, therefore, not right for members of the public to attack journalists when they perceive that they have erred in publishing or broadcasting a story.

The 2019 theme for World Press Freedom Day: “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”, speaks to the fact that no society can dispense with the services of the media, especially in governance.

As rightly put by the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, "No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information. It is the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power."

This is the role journalists play and the Daily Graphic joins media stakeholders who have called on the government, security agents and media owners to prioritise and promote the safety of journalists so that the media is empowered to play its constitutionally mandated watchdog role effectively.

In the same vein, we urge media practitioners to report factually, use experts in areas they have inadequate knowledge of and take the sensibilities of the public into consideration in the discharge of their work.