fbpx

Why Ghana's ranking in press freedom has dropped and how gov't intends to help reverse it

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong
Why Ghana's ranking in press freedom has dropped and how gov't intends to help reverse it
Kojo Oppong Nkrumah - Minister of Information

The government has welcomed the 2022 Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders in which Ghana has significantly dropped from 30 to 60 in the global ranking and stated that the report will serve as a baseline for which the government will work in collaboration with the National Media Commission (NMC) to help deepen the execution of a Coordinated Mechanism on the safety of journalists in Ghana.

Acknowledging that the change in the methodology for 2022 as explained by the publishers of the report may have contributed in the drop for Ghana, the government said it will collaborate with stakeholders including Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in deepening education for State and non-State actors on the safety of journalists.

It said it will also help address the concern of Reporters Without Borders about the poor economic conditions of most journalists in the country, and that it will continue engagements with media associations including media owners to improve the working and economic conditions of journalists.

"Collaborate with stakeholders in the fight against disinformation and spread of fake news," is also another initiative the government has said it will undertake.

Caution

However, it said despite the caution from the publishers of the report that "care should be taken when comparing the 2022 rankings and scores with those from 2021 in light of this new methodology," some analysts are overlooking it.

Read also: Ghana falls 30 places to rank 60th on Press Freedom Index

A statement signed and issued by the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah on Wednesday night [May 4, 2022] in reaction to the report said "the government of Ghana in pursuance of its desire to continuously promote press freedom and the safety of journalists, intends to do" more to promote press freedom in Ghana.

It said it is important to emphasize that "the change in methodology significantly accounted for the drop in ranking for a number of countries including the Netherlands that dropped from 5th (2021) to 28 (2022) in global ranking."

"Due to this development, four (4) of the countries (Netherlands, Jamaica, Switzerland and New Zealand) that ranked top ten (10) in 2021 significantly dropped in ranking, slumping out of the top ten (10) in the year under review," it added.

It is worthy of note that Ghana's dip in ranking was largely influenced by two of the new parameters, namely, the Economic Context and Safety of Journalists where the country scored 47.22% and 62.25% respectively, the government said.

It said Ghana comparatively performed better in guaranteeing safety of journalists (62.25%) juxtaposed to economic factors that influence media work (47.22%) underpinned by poor salaries for journalists and the lack of financial sustainability of some media houses, making a number of them economically less viable.

On the safety of journalists, it is imperative to note that an activity that may feed into the assessment of press freedom includes actions by non-State actors.

It is also striking that the new report took into consideration the effect of opinion media, propaganda, disinformation and fake news and their adverse impact on press freedom ranking for affected countries.

This is as a result of growing political and social tensions leading to information distortions and the publication of false news, particularly across social media platforms, it added.

Baseline for future assessment

Some analysts and senior researchers have suggested that the 2022 RFS report on press freedom should rather serve as a baseline for assessing media freedom in subsequent years given the change in methodology.

The 2022 report was developed with a new methodology by RSE, which considers; Legal Framework and Justice System, Technological Censorship and Surveillance, Disinformation and Propaganda, Arbitrary Detentions and Proceedings, Independence and Pluralism, Models and Good Practices, Media Sustainability, and Violence Against Journalists.

Scores and Ranking

According to the five (5) parameters assessed under the new methodology, Ghana scored appreciably high in the following; Legal Framework (81.42%) and Socio-cultural Context (79.64%)

Ghana also recorded above average and moderately high scores for Political Context (66.61%) and Safety of Journalists (62.25%).

The only parameter in which Ghana performed below average was Economic Context (47.22%). This refers to the economic conditions of journalists on one hand and financial sustainability of media houses.

Ghana's scores under these parameters culminated in an average score of 67.43%and 60th position on the new global ranking. 

GJA's reaction

Meanwhile, the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has said it did not expect Ghana's "precipitous" decline on the World Press Freedom index even in the existence of a "confluence of anti-media" factors.

At an event to commemorate World Press Freedom Day in Accra Wednesday (May 4, 2022), the outgoing President of the GJA, Roland Affail Monney speaking on behalf of the GJA noted that the ranking does not sentence Ghana to an irreversible situation, and called for the passage of the Broadcasting Bill to address challenges pertaining to the ownership of media.

He described Ghana’s latest ranking on the World Press Freedom Index as "depressing enough to effect dramatic mood swings from one of celebration to that of lamentation".

"Indeed, a drop in ranking had been anticipated due to a confluence of anti-media factors. But never did we expect the drop to be so precipitous- 3rd in Africa to 10th, and 30th in the world to 60th, a 100 per cent decline," Mr Monney said.

Mr Monney suggested that "arrests and reckless attacks and animalistic disregard for the rights of a number of journalists in the line of duty" had resulted in a sharp deterioration of the safety of journalists in the country.

Read also: GJA reacts to Ghana's latest Press Freedom ranking

Below is a copy of the full statement

STATEMENT ON RFS PRESS FREEDOM INDEX

Background

The Government of Ghana takes note of the 2022 world press freedom ranking by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

It is our understanding that the 2022 report was developed with a new methodology by RSE, which considers the following broad areas;

  • Legal Framework and Justice System
  • Technological Censorship and Surveillance
  • Disinformation and Propaganda
  • Arbitrary Detentions and Proceedings
  • Independence and Pluralism
  • Models and Good Practices
  • Media Sustainability, and
  • Violence Against Journalists

The report was also impacted by unregulated online media spaces that served as conduits for spreading fake news and disinformation, a situation that was exacerbated by social media endorsements.

The report further indicates that advent of opinion media and propaganda, coupled with ownership of traditional media houses by politicians (30%) partly accounted for this new ranking.

Methodology and Caution

It is instructive to note that the new methodology deployed by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for the 2022 ranking relied primarily on five (5) parameters; these are

  • Media Landscape
  • Political Context
  • Legal Framework
  • Economic Context, and
  • Safety of journalists.

On the matter of comparing the 2022 rankings to the 2021 rankings, the authors caution that "care should be taken when comparing the 2022 rankings and scores with those from 2021 in light of this new methodology?

Some analysts and senior researchers have suggested that the 2022 RFS report on press freedom should rather serve as a baseline for assessing media freedom in subsequent years given the change in methodology.

Scores and Ranking

According to the five (5) parameters assessed under the new methodology, Ghana scored appreciably high in the following; Legal Framework (81.42%) and Socio-cultural Context (79.64%)

Ghana also recorded above average and moderately high scores for Political Context (66.61%) and Safety of Journalists (62.25%).

The only parameter in which Ghana performed below average was Economic Context (47.22%). This refers to the economic conditions of journalists on one hand and financial sustainability of media houses.

Ghana's scores under these parameters culminated in an average score of 67.43%and 60th position on the new global ranking. 

Analysis

It is important to emphasize that the change in methodology significantly accounted for the drop in ranking for a number of countries including the Netherlands that dropped from 5th (2021) to 28 (2022) in global ranking.

Due to this development, four (4) of the countries (Netherlands, Jamaica, Switzerland and New Zealand) that ranked top ten (10) in 2021 significantly dropped in ranking, slumping out of the top ten (10) in the year under review.

It is worthy of note that Ghana's dip in ranking was largely influenced by two of the new parameters, namely, the Economic Context and Safety of Journalists where the country scored 47.22% and 62.25% respectively.

The country comparatively performed better in guaranteeing safety of journalists (62.25%) juxtaposed to economic factors that influence media work (47.22%) underpinned by poor salaries for journalists and the lack of financial sustainability of some media houses, making a number of them economically less viable.

On the safety of journalists, it is imperative to note that an activity that may feed into the assessment of press freedom includes actions by non-State actors.

It is also striking that the new report took into consideration the effect of opinion media, propaganda, disinformation and fake news and their adverse impact on press freedom ranking for affected countries.

This is as a result of growing political and social tensions leading to information distortions and the publication of false news, particularly across social media platforms.

Positive Highlights from the RFS Report

Ghana performed creditably well in three (3) of the five (5) parameters under the new methodology, namely, Political Context, Legal Framework and Social Context.

Ghana scored 66%, 81% and 79% in that order. It is worthy of note that this rather significant performance amidst a general downgrade is largely due to initiatives such as the passage of the Right to Information Act, the Coordinated Mechanism on Safety of Journalists and the Media Capacity Enhancement Programme.

Negative Highlights from the RFS Report

Ghana's performance on safety of journalists leaves room for improvement.

Ghana's performance on Economic Context is very poor and must equally be reserved,

The Way Forward

Despite the caution from the publishers of the report that "care should be taken when comparing the 2022 rankings and scores with those from 2021 in light of this new methodology" the Government of Ghana in pursuance of its desire to continuously promote press freedom and the safety of journalists, intends to do the under-listed;

Work in collaboration with the National Media Commission to deepen the execution of the Coordinated Mechanism on the Safety of Journalists.

Collaborate with stakeholders including Civil Society Organisations in deepening education for State and non-State actors on the safety of journalists

To address the RFS' concern about the poor economic conditions of most journalists in the country, government continue engagements with media associations including media owners to improve the working and economic conditions of journalists.

Collaborate with stakeholders in the fight against disinformation and spread of fake news.

Conclusion

Ghana's democracy is a work in progress. Overall therefore, government welcomes the RSF report as a baseline reference document against which press freedom in our country may be gauged in the coming years.

Writer's email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.