From February 2018 to March 2019, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) recorded 22 violations against media workers in Ghana.
A communique issued by the Foundation on the safety of Journalists in Ghana in Accra yesterday, said 11 of the violations were direct attacks on journalists, a situation which had led to the country dropping four places from 23 to 27 in the 2019 edition of the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders.
Giving a breakdown of the violations, the communique, which was issued ahead of World Press Freedom Day, which falls today, May 3, said six of the violations were perpetrated by security agents, seven were carried out by political party affiliates, eight were by individuals and one by an organised group.
Instances of such violations, the communique said, included the killing of Ahmed Hussein Suale of Tiger Eye PI by unknown assailants on January 16, 2019, a recent attack on Malik Sulemana, Raissa Sambou and Salifu Abdul Rahman, all of the Ghanaians Times by a security agent and a physical attack on Jerry Azanduna of the Ghana News Agency in Bawku by political party activists.
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Other instances were a physical attack on Karen Dodoo of Joy News and a threat against the Editor-in-Chief of the New Crusading Guide, Abdul Malik Kweku Baako.
At a stakeholders’ meeting organised by MFWA and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in Accra, where the communique was issued, a board member of MFWA,
Professor Kwame Karikari, said the developments seriously threatened to undermine press freedom in the country.
The meeting, which formed part of the World Press Freedom Day celebration, was aimed at discussing and finding ways of preserving press freedom and protecting and ensuring the safety of journalists in the country.
World Press Freedom Day
Every year, May 3 is commemorated globally as World Press Freedom Day (WPFD). The day is set aside to celebrate press freedom success, assess and discuss press freedom challenges, emerging issues and the way forward.
It is also used to pay tribute to journalists who lost their lives in the line of duty or demonstrated exceptional courage by working in very dangerous environments.
Prof. Karikari said press freedom was in recession and might soon go into extinction if practicable measures were not taken to check the situation.
He urged journalists to wage a war against attacks on media workers, to ensure that their lives and profession were protected.
He appealed to the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to personally find an occasion to address the issue publicly.
“The threat of death to the lives of journalists is a totally new development that requires urgent concern by the government and all democracy-loving Ghanaians. The government and political parties must publicly condemn these threats and censure their comrades whose utterances and actions support violence against the media and journalists,” Prof. Karikari said.
He also called for some portions of the law which posed a threat to media practice to be deleted, despite the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law in 2001.
“It is important also to recall that there are still on the books some legislation that pose threats to press freedom. One of them is the provision on “false publication” or false news which remained when the libel and seditious libel provisions in the Criminal Code, Act 29 1960 were repealed in 2001 under the government of President John Agyekum Kufuor, an exercise that was championed by the then Attorney-General and now the President, Akufo-Addo,” Prof. Karikari stated.
For his part, the President of the GJA, Mr Roland Affail Monney, urged journalists to be vigilant at all times and put their safety ahead of their job because no story was worth their lives.
“I do not mean to condone any act of violence against journalists. but then the ethical misconduct and bankruptcy on the part of some journalists also lead them into calling attacks on themselves. You always have to put your safety first, ask questions and know what you are about,” he cautioned.
Meanwhile, he is calling for a collective effort by journalists themselves to fight the menace.
“It is deeply regrettable to note that partisan allegiance, amplified by shared enmity, weakens the ability of journalists to wage a common war against impunity and the consequent brutalisation of journalists,” he said.
Mr Monney added that there was a cancer of impunity, for which reason more needed to be done by the government, state security, civil society, media partners, media owners, consumers and media workers themselves.
The Director General, Public Affairs Directorate of the Ghana Police Service, ACP David Eklu, who was present at the meeting said, the service was taking pragmatic steps to curb violations against journalists, especially on the part of the police.
He explained that the police were developing a framework which would engender a healthy relationship between police officers and journalists.
“The framework will promote professionalism and reduce these issues of attacks and suspicion between the police and journalists so that the democratic policing that we are practising will be deepened.
“This framework will be a document that will be used as a training material for both the police and media. We have finished with the first and second drafts and we hope that we should be able to use it pretty soon,” he said.