Media must cease excessive politicisation - GJA on Press Freedom Day
Media outlets have been cautioned to guard against excessive politicisation to consolidate the country’s democratic gains.
This was expressed by a former President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mrs Gifty Affenyi-Dadzie, and the current President, Albert Kwabena Dwumfour, in separate remarks as Ghana marked the 2023 World Press Freedom Day in Accra Wednesday.
Mrs Affenyi-Dadzie explained that politicisation of the media was a threat to democracy, and said it could lead to the downplay of the media to demand accountability, while Mr Dwumfour stressed that journalists must not entertain politicians who poisoned the media atmosphere with provocative remarks.
World Press Freedom Day
World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a recommendation adopted by the 26th session of the UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) General Conference in 1991.
The day is celebrated annually on May 3 with a global event and various national events to raise awareness of freedom of the press, as well as to remind governments about their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression as enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The global theme for the day was: “Shaping a future of rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights”, while the country commemorated the day on the theme: “Freedom of expression: A driver for all human rights for Ghana’s development”.
Present at the ceremony were members of the diplomatic corps, the UN Resident Coordinator, Charles Abani; Representative of UNESCO to Ghana, Abdourahamane Diallo; Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafo; the Managing Director of the Graphic Communications Group, Ato Afful; former Editor, Graphic, Kobby Asmah; and owners and editors of various media outlets.
The occasion, which featured a public lecture by a Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Dennis Dominic Adjei, also provided a platform for the exhibition of books authored on the media in Ghana.
Mrs Affenyi-Dadzie, who chaired the event, urged the leadership of the GJA to ensure sanity by using its Ethics and Disciplinary Council to investigate allegations of unprofessional conduct and ethical breaches to promote high ethical standards among journalists.
She further urged all media houses to continually highlight the challenges posed by illegal mining until the menace was brought to an end.
“The agenda to stop galamsey should be treated as a major existential threat that should go beyond the coalition that first highlighted the menace,” she said.
Mrs Affenyi-Dadzie charged the media to develop a stronger interest in the economic management of the country to demand answers to nagging issues, including corruption and incompetence, which had the potential to roll back the advancement of the country.
Mr Dwumfour noted that the GJA had initiated processes to engage the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to repeal “obnoxious laws” such as aspects of the Electronic Communications Act and Section 208 of the Criminal and Other Offences Act of 1960 (Act 29), saying they stifled free speech.
As a commitment to safeguard freedom of speech, the GJA President said the association had established the Journalists Support Fund to provide legal services to journalists whose rights were violated during the performance of their duties, and to cushion retirees.
He further assured journalists of his commitment to mount pressure on the Ghana Police Service to conclude investigations on Ahmed Suale, an investigative journalist who was killed four years ago.
“It is important to reiterate that the celebration of World Press Freedom Day would become an annual charade if state institutions do not commit themselves to changing the narrative and maintaining the rights of journalists for once,” he added.
Justice Adjei stressed the need to address the legal provisions which provided justification to arrest journalists.
“In a country where people’s rights are violated, the entire country will be stricken with fear and would require journalists and bold persons to expose those abuses, and enlighten the citizenry of their fundamental human rights which have been suppressed.
“The sick, disabled, workers, women and children have their specific human rights available to them, and it would require persons including journalists to impart the information to the said persons who are entitled to those rights and do not know of their existence or have those rights violated,” he said.
Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh called on journalists to choose a better means of verifying studies, stressing that “when you are in doubt, spike the story”.
Mr Diallo said his outfit would continue to support freedom and access to information and safety of journalists.
“Let the day be an opportunity to renew our commitment to defending journalists,” he added.
Mr Abani advocated the need to push for strong legal protection to ensure a strong media independence.
In a speech read on his behalf, the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, urged all stakeholders to support media capacity enhancement programmes to fight misinformation.
In a separate statement later issued, Mr Oppong Nkrumah expressed profound faith in the local media as partners for the development of the country.
“The media has been instrumental over the years in highlighting various rights that require attention for full enjoyment. The work of the media, also, in highlighting instances of abuse of some rights by sections of the society has led to redress in many instances. We urge the media to remain resolute on this path.
“The quest to have all citizens fully access their economic rights is yet to achieve full effect, especially as the world faces dim economic forecasts following recent global challenges.
“While urging the media in Ghana to keep the spotlight on all human rights, we encourage an even sharper focus on efforts to ensure that the economic rights of citizens are fully actualised,” the statement added.
Meanwhile the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana, in a statement signed by its President, Andrew Edwin Arthur, said the day must serve as a wake-up call to all lovers of media freedom to defend media practitioners by condemning all acts that ended up negatively affecting the practice of journalism in this country.
“It is the desire of the association and its members that government reconsiders or restrategises on its media policy, particularly the distribution of state-sponsored adverts, so as to benefit the majority of media houses in the country, a move PRINPAG believes, will go a long way in sustaining the Ghanaian media and saving them from eventual collapse,” the statement said.