From Richard Owusu-Akyaw, Kumasi .
Latest Afro barometer report has made interesting revelations about the stance of Ghanaians, amid media freedom in Ghana, which is universally touted as beacon of peace and democracy.
Among 21 African countries surveyed in 2016/2018, Ghana ranked well below average (47%) in its support for media freedom.
In an Afro barometer report, it explained that only about one in three Ghanaians (36%) support full media freedom, a sharp drop from 55% in 2014.
A majority (57%) said that the government should have the right to prevent the publication of information it deems harmful to society.
The report further indicated that around six in 10 respondents (62%) say the media has more freedom than a few years ago to investigate and criticise government actions.
However, it stated that , three-fourth of Ghanaians believe that at least ‘some’ members of the public and private media are corrupt, including almost one in five citizens who say that ‘most’ or ‘all’ media are corrupt.
It has noted that different socio-demographic groups show only modest differences in support for media freedom.
Urban and rural residents hold almost identical views, as do different age groups. Men are slightly more likely than women to support a free media (39% vs 34%) and respondents with no formal education are less supportive of media freedom (30%) than their better-educated counterparts.
Perhaps, surprisingly, wealthy respondents tend to support government control more (57% and 59% among those with no or low lived poverty) than poor respondents.
Afrobarometer, which is a Pan-African series of national public attitude, which surveys on democracy and governance disclosed that:
“In four surveys between 2005 and 2014, a majority of Ghanaians consistently endorsed media freedom from government interference. But in 2017, support for media freedom dropped from 55% to 36% (Figure 6).
“These findings may be interpreted within the context of longstanding concerns about sensationalism, false reportage, misinterpretation of information and the use of violence inciting language on the part of some partisan media (Ghana News Agency, 2011; Ghanaweb, 2012; Myjoyonline, 2016).
According to the Afrobarometer statement, a majority of Ghanaians say they trust information from public media (60%), government sources (58%) and private media (57%), at least “somewhat.” Fewer trust information from social media sources (43%).
Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions and related issues in African countries. Six rounds of surveys were conducted in up to 37 countries between 1999 and 2015 and Round 7 surveys are being completed in 2018.
Afrobarometer conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples.
The Afrobarometer team in Ghana, led by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), interviewed 2,400 adult Ghanaians between September 9 and 25, 2017.
Sample of this size yields results with a margin of error of +/-2 percentage points at a 95% confidence level. Previous surveys have been conducted in Ghana in 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2012, and 2014
According to the report, it revealed that most Ghanaians rely on radio and television as their main sources of news. About one-quarter get news from social media and the Internet at least a few times a month, while regular newspaper readership continues to decline.
Young and well educated Ghanaians are the most frequent users of social media and the Internet, while older and less-educated citizens rely more heavily on radio as a source of news.
However, more than half (57%) of Ghanaians say the government should have the right to prevent the media from publishing things that it considers harmful to society, including 40% who say they feel “very strongly” on this issue.
Only about one in three (36%) say the media should be free to publish any views or ideas without government interference. This is a reversal of attitudes during previous survey rounds.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (2018) cites declining popular support for journalists – due in part to perceptions of fallen ethical standards and corruption – as a prime reason behind violent attacks on journalists, often by security personnel or police and generally unpunished. The foundation documents 17 such cases between January 2017 and April 2018.
Comparing responses across 21 countries sampled in Afrobarometer’s most recent survey round, Ghana scores well below average (47%) in terms of supporting media freedom (Figure 7), raising questions about Ghana’s No. 23 ranking (No. 1 among African countries) on the 2018 World Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders, 2018).