Journalism, as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, is supposed to serve as the watchdog of society by providing information and education to the masses. Journalists must be given unfettered freedom and access to carry out their duties. Although Ghana is highly respected for its press freedom credentials, the rights of its journalists have sometimes been abused, and the statistics unfortunately, seems to be on the rise.
The number of reported cases of attacks on journalists has increased significantly, and it is a worrying trend that must be addressed as early as possible. Some of the instances of journalist attacks in recent times include; the physical assault on broadcast journalist Caleb Kudah of Citi FM, who was physically abused while in national security custody without any formal charge. Another instance was Latif Idris, a journalist with Joy News, who was beaten to near death at the headquarters of the Ghana Police Service, leaving him with a fractured skull. There is also the case of Emmanuel Ajafor, an Editor for ModernGhana.com, and two of his colleagues who were in the office when heavily armed officers stormed the place, seized material and arrested them. In all these cases, none of the perpetrators have been successfully prosecuted to serve as a deterrent.
The Chronicle carried a story on our front page yesterday, about the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, appealing to the Bench not to spare anyone who attacks journalists in their line of duty. Speaking at the opening ceremony of a training workshop for judges on the need to protect freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, the Minister said some quick punitive action targeted at the perpetrators of infringements against media practitioners will be appreciated, no matter the attacker’s political affiliation and social standing.
Over the years, journalists have encountered several attacks in carrying out their duties in the country. These attacks are mostly from supporters of dominant political parties or security agents of the state, which results in severe pain inflicted on these journalists. The sad part of the story is that even when the perpetrators are accosted, there is lack of prosecution or sanctions against them.
A report by the Media Foundation for West Africa, a civil society group, identified last year that there have been over 150 incidents of violation against journalists since 2002. This is sad statistics that should see journalism practitioners making their voices heard.
The Chronicle is, therefore, happy about the intervention by the Information minister to stop the attack on journalists. We are glad that, the Ministry of Information, in addressing the issue of attacks on journalists, has already set in motion a number of programmes, with the objective of supporting the Ghanaian media. This has resulted in engagements that have led to the development of some key interventions aimed at supporting the media to confront problems they face.
The Chronicle makes a plea to judges not to take it lightly when cases which have to do with attacks on journalists are brought before them. If this is done, it will go a long to nip the canker in the bud. Journalists in Ghana should be free to comment on issues of public interests without fear that they will be attacked.