Impose stiffer punishment for attacks on media personnel - Minister to judiciary
The Ministry of Information has appealed to the judiciary to consider stiffer punishment for persons who attack media houses and journalists in the line of duty.
During a presentation on the upsurge of attacks on journalists on the floor of Parliament yesterday, the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said data available to his ministry suggested that the trend was on the ascendancy.
Spate of attacks
Mr Nkrumah stated that the phenomenon of attacks and intimidation of journalists was gaining notoriety in Ghana.
"Increasingly, various actors in Ghana, including state actors, political operatives, assigns of businesses and everyday citizens are resorting to attacks and intimidation of journalists as a means of expressing their displeasure.
"This is in spite of the fact that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of Ghana's democracy and the protection of those who contribute to the freedom of information should be of paramount importance to us all, " Mr Nkrumah noted.
Plan of Action
The minister said in 2012 the United Nations introduced the UN Plan of Action on the safety of journalists.
The plan requires a multi-stakeholder approach involving all the actors at the global and country level to comprehensively address the three Ps - Prevent violence against journalists, Protect journalists in danger, and Prosecute the perpetrators.
"Also, UN SDG 16 requires all countries to demonstrate progress in ensuring public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms, which include the right to freedom of expression and safety of journalists," he said.
The Plan of Action aims at creating a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said recommended measures included, among other undertakings, the establishment of a coordinated inter-agency mechanism to handle issues related to the safety of journalists, as well as assisting countries to develop legislation and mechanisms favourable to freedom of expression and information and supporting their efforts to implement existing international rules and principles.
He said in line with this, the Ministry of Information first engaged with stakeholders of the media ecosystem in 2018 to design programmes aimed at responding to challenges in the industry, and from that engagement, the Coordinated Mechanism on the Safety of Journalists was birthed.
The minister said in collaboration with the National Media Commission (NMC), an office was established on May 4, 2021, to operate that mechanism under the leadership of the NMC.
The mechanism has four major functions.
They include regular advocacy and training of key actors, including journalists, security agencies, the judiciary and the public on the need to uphold the safety of journalists; steps journalists can take to protect themselves when conducting investigations or reporting in potentially violent scenarios such as riots, demonstrations or conflict and publication of an annual report on the safety of journalists and efforts to punish attacks on journalists.
Mr Nkrumah said there was the need to hold the investigative, prosecutorial and judicial agencies accountable for the incidents reported to them, emphasising the critical role Parliament could play in assisting to hold the agencies accountable for the incidents that had been reported to them.