By Maxwell Ofori
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has admonished media practitioners to, with all humility, accept their errors when they occur, rather than hiding under the guise of media freedom to cry foul when such errors are pointed out.
Addressing the 2019 National Conference of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) held in Takoradi, Western Region, on Monday, September 9, 2019, the President noted that with the proliferation of media channels, including social media, deliberate misinformation campaigns have gained added currency.
He observed that a major threat to the integrity of the news world has emerged, as well as the publication of unverified claims, in the haste to be first to break the news, describing it as a very worrying trend that must be checked by regulators and media practitioners alike.
“In such cases, even after the public has been misinformed, and the true facts are later made known, [the] media often chickens out of an honest open acknowledgement that ‘we erred.’ The response is often to refuse to apologise or sweep it under the carpet and move on to the next big story.
“Politicians are not the only persons who make mistakes. Media practitioners, like all human beings, can also make mistakes, and, when they do, they should have the humility to acknowledge their error, and not have their misdeeds atoned under the guise of media freedom. Irresponsible media practice is an abuse of freedom of expression, not its manifestation,” he added.
The President acknowledged that the media had immeasurable power to build up the confidence and values of our society and its institutions.
He, thus, called “on Ghanaian media practitioners to take a second look at the power they wield, and the responsibility they owe society, with a view to ensuring that they do not sacrifice integrity and the future of our society for today’s headline or breaking news.”
Further assuring the conference of his commitment towards press freedom, President Akufo-Addo recounted his days as the Attorney General, under the erstwhile Kufuor administration, where he led the process to repeal the Criminal Libel Law.
“The repeal, when it occurred, on 27th July, 2001, was a very happy day for me, representing one of the high points of my public career. In my time as President, the Right to Information Act, whose passage had, hitherto, become a taboo, was finally enacted by Parliament. My attachment to the vital nature of freedom of expression in promoting national progress and security has not changed since I became President.”
He said that Ghanaians are, today, as they have been doing for much of the 4th Republic, able to give boldly and freely their feedback on policies and programmes of government. He said civil society organisations are able to interrogate fearlessly government actions and positions, compare them to global best practices, and offer views and critiques aimed at complementing the efforts of government.
And the political opposition, he stressed, is able to raise dissent openly, and canvass without intimidation for alternative viewpoints.
Against those backgrounds, President Akufo-Addo averred that no effort was being made to suppress freedom of expression in Ghana.
He asserted with emphasis that the continuing vitality of the Ghanaian media, and the intense diversity of public discourse, remain some of the most internationally admired traits of the Ghanaian democracy.
“However, as I indicated at the World Press Freedom Day event in Accra, last year, there is the need for continuous training, self-regulation and an insistence on acceptable media ethics and journalistic standards by media houses, practitioners and their organisations, as part of the process of installing a culture of accountable governance, requiring high standards and professionalism in the Ghanaian media. This is one of the surest ways of addressing the current shortcomings and ills of our media landscape,” he opined