President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has stated that media freedom and the safety of journalists are paramount.
He explained that journalists had to feel safe to go about their work because what they did for the country and the community was extremely important.
President Akufo-Addo made the observation when the leadership of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), led by its President, Albert Kwabena Dwumfour, paid a courtesy call on him at the Jubilee House in Accra last Wednesday evening.
The GJA executives were at the Presidency to introduce themselves to the President, discuss issues pertaining to the media landscape and invite him to the GJA Awards scheduled for Saturday, November 12, this year.
Other members of the GJA delegation were the Vice-President, Linda Asante Agyei; the General Secretary, Kofi Yeboah; the Public Affairs Officer, Rebecca Ekpe; the Organising Secretary, Dominic Hlordzi, and the Treasurer, Audrey Dekalu.
The government’s team included the Chief of Staff, Akosua Frema Osei-Opare; the Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr Ernest Addison, and the Commissioner General of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Rev. Dr Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah.
The rest are the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta; the Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen; the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Ignatius Baffuor Awuah; the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, and the Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, Cecilia Abena Dapaah.
He said he preferred the current kind of press in the country, which was very active and vibrant, especially its diversity and proliferation, which had made journalists present in every corner of the country.
He reiterated the fact that there could be no press freedom if, systematically, journalists were always afraid for themselves about what they said.
“I don't condone any attacks on any journalist, even those who abuse me,” he said, noting that he preferred a noisy and mischievous press to a sycophantic one.
The President described as unfortunate the fact that in spite of very widespread efforts made by the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service, it had not been able to lay hands on Suale’s killers.
He said it was worrying because without the findings, it was difficult to ascertain the reasons behind the killing, whether it was because of his work as a journalist or for other reasons.
President Akufo-Addo opined that the concept of responsible journalism was extremely important for the welfare of the country, and that most people were sensitive to the capacity of the media to generate their own information.
He said the media’s capacity and position to independently verify the truth or otherwise of what state actors and others had said for the population not to be denied any informed scrutiny were crucial.
Regarding the decline in the ratings of the country on the Press Freedom Index, the President wondered why it was like that because he did not know of many countries in Africa with such proliferation of independent media outlets as pertained in Ghana.
When the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, explained that the country’s downgrading was because the matrix was more about the welfare of journalists, the President said: “If it is about the condition of journalists, well, I can understand it.”
That was because journalists in Ghana were notoriously not well paid, and that it was the collective responsibility of all to ensure that the challenge was addressed, he said.
The President assured the association that he would grace the GJA Awards.
Mr Dwumfour, for his part, said this year’s GJA Awards were on the theme: “Walking the path towards Ghana’s economic recovery – the Role of the media”.
He said the theme sought to highlight the essential role of the media in the present challenging socio-economic circumstances and how best they could help in the economic recovery efforts.
He called on the President to revive his annual Media Encounter series to enable him to share thoughts on pertinent national issues with the media and also enable the media to express their concerns on the operations of the government.
He expressed worry over the welfare of journalists and said the association was engaging media owners on how best to address the situation.
The GJA President urged the government to also do its part by saving the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation from collapse.