Ghana has become the centre of attention for journalists across the world this week as the country hosts more than 700 media personalities to commemorate the 2018 World Press Freedom Day.
The three-day event which is on the theme “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law” has plenary sessions where journalists will have the opportunity to discuss the current challenges affecting the media especially issues about press freedom and freedom of expression.
It is a day which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
The day which is marked on May 3 every year was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO's General Conference in 1991 which in turn was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence
Opening of the event in Accra Wednesday, the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia whose address was delivered on his behalf by the Information Minister, Dr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, paid glowing tribute to citizens, journalists, civil society groups and politicians for helping in upholding the instruments of free speech.
He, however, entreated leaders of the many other countries where the right to free speech and press freedom have not been fully embraced to open up their societies and let the people feel free to engage in vigorous exchange of ideas.
While acknowledging some of the good things in press freedom, Dr Bawumia alluded to some of its inherent challenges in terms of the peculiar risk journalists faced in carrying out their duties.
On the risk factor the Vice-President particularly expressed concern about the deliberate misinformation campaigns by some elements in the democratic space and the risk of inadvertent misinformation by journalists often in their haste to be the first to break the news with punchy headlines.
“As is unfolding before our very eyes on a daily basis deliberate misinformation campaigns, which in themselves are not now in politics and war, have now gained new currency and effect with the proliferation and democratisation of media channels,” Dr Bawumia submitted.
Right to Information
Touching on deepening the democratic space in Ghana, the Vice-President spoke about the much awaited Right to Information (RTI) Bill which where he gave the assurance that “we look forward to its swift passage when Parliament resumes.”
He stated that Ghana would continue to be the trail blazer in the democratic area in Africa standing tall as an example of a healthy vigorous democracy and a country which had challenged the known theories of fighting poverty and made strides in investing in education.
Nnenna Nwakanma, Senior Policy Manager, World Wide Web Programme, delivering her address at the world press freedom day 2018.
Work without threats
In her keynote address, the Senior Policy Manager of World Wide Web Foundation based in Abidjan, Nnenna Nwakanma, said journalists were supposed to go about their duties freely without threats or intimation.
Notwithstanding those difficulties, she urged journalists not to be discouraged but rather should strive and do more beyond their fears to effect the change that the society so desired.
Nwakanma criticised Ghana’s reluctance in passing the RTI and stressed that she was a witness to an assurance given by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo a year ago at a function which attended in Ghana and questioned why the law had still not been passed.
The Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Getachew Engida, in his address said in order to guarantee better protection for journalists, UNESCO encouraged the set-up of national mechanisms for the safety of journalists.
“Only when journalists can report without fearing for their lives and when citizens can access information to make informed decisions, can democracy and development thrive,” he stated.
Prof. Kwame Karikari (3rd right), Founder, Media Foundation West Africa, giving his remarks during a panel discussion.
Mr Getachew Engida, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, delivering his address at the world press freedom day international conference held in Accra.