What is the celebration all about?

Journalistic Terrorism or Ghana Graded Down in World Press Freedom Index?

On Thursday, May 5, 2022, a loud banner headline hit the media landscape, pronouncing: Ghana Drops In World Press Freedom Index Ranking (WPFI). It begun by stating that on a ranking undertaken by Reporters Without Boarders (RSF), Ghana has dropped 30 places to 60th on the 2022 World Press Freedom Index. This, the story went on to say that, that is Ghana’s third-lowest since the Index was first published in 2002. Ghana was ranked 67th in 2002 and 66th in 2005. Surprisingly, this was in the era when Criminal Libel Law was repealed and journalists could get up and say anything at all, however damaging and without proof or evidence.

The report put up among other reasons, three things which in my opinion need to be further explained.

1). That to protect their jobs and their security, journalists in Ghana, increasingly resort to self-censorship, as the government shows itself intolerant of criticism.

2). That one-third of media outlets are owned by politicians or by people tied to the top political parties. The content they produce is largely partisan. And,

3). That journalists’ safety had deteriorated sharply in recent years.

May I reiterate that with the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, and Ghana not taking measures to ensure there is responsible journalism, something which the then acting Chief Justice Edward Kwame Wiredu insisted government should do, introduced journalistic terrorism in this country.

If to protect their jobs and their security, journalists in Ghana must censor their own publication, then the country is not fed the truth and this could one day lead us unto the Rwanda Path. Journalists are quick to hold politicians and political office holders accountable for their stewardship, however, they do not do same. So, who is most corrupt here? And even in cases where office holders do exactly what they must do, as in the case of the Supreme Court justices of today, journalists who have lack of understanding of the Law and the Constitution are up in arms, directing that the JSCs must deliver justice that would suit them, the journalists.

And if as the study goes, one-third of media outlets are political media houses and the reports from journalists working there are screwed to favour one political party or the other, then of course this is not journalism. Journalists who are more partisan than objective can attract danger, not necessarily from any politician but from people who owe allegiance to the politicians or to a political party.

One cannot understand how come the RSP are able to come out with the opinion that journalists’ safety in Ghana had deteriorated sharply in recent years. Yes, a journalist was shot dead in the streets of Accra and a few got threatened and harassed in the line of duty. What was Ghana’s ranking in 2015 when a journalist, George Abanga of Success/Peace FM was murdered? What was Ghana’s ranking in May, 2015 when Michael Greg of Oman FM was harassed by the military for photographing a construction site? What was Ghana’s ranking in 2015 when      presidential aide, Stan Dogbe, assaulted a GBC journalist and smashed his tape recorder while journalist was on line of duty?

There is no justification for causing any harm to another, however some journalists in this country, believe they must live by the law and others must die by it.

In Ghana, journalists can publish falsehood as in the case of Mensah-Thompson of ASEP, who stated that the president’s nephews and nieces used the presidential jet to go and shop in the UK ; that of Kwabena Bobie Ansah of Accra FM, who was charged for publication of false story when he lied that the first lady fraudulently acquired state lands for private use and Oheneba Boamah Bennie of Power FM,who had falsely alleged that President Akufo-Addo had conspired with judges to influence the Ghana 2020 Elections, among others. And whenever the law takes it cause, journalists will come out asking whether free speech in Ghana was a crime.

Some few years ago, three journalists were on air, condemning justices of the Supreme Court and even went on to threaten that they would rape the lady Chief Justice at the time.

In Ghana, a whole major television station, like TV3, could spend money and other resources in assembling falsehood just to make the government look bad.

In all this, the media practitioners believe they are untouchable and must not face the law even where they spread falsehood to incite people. Such incitement can lead to civil unrest or even war, as happened in Rwanda. In all this the president of the Ghana Journalists Association, Mr. Roland AffailMonney believes that the only way Ghana can regain its status and good rankings in the world, is to have authorities dealing with the cancerous spread of impunity against journalists. To the best of his knowledge, it will be okay if journalists attack personalists and spread falsehood about them and such journalists go scot-free.

We all know that it is only through the media that we get information about what is going on around us. The responsibility of the journalists is to come out with the facts and that will mean listening to the other side and coming out with objective stories.

But what do we have in Ghana lately? It is all about the president and some slay queen and if indeed this is against that high office, it is the courts must decide.

Across the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, we have a Ghanaian, Kevin Taylor, whose purpose is to incite Ghanaians to rise up in arms, out of the falsehood that he is spreading. And surely when this country goes up in flames, he will be safe in his comfort zone thousands of miles away.

All that I ask is for journalists to be objective and fair in their reportage and stop believing that they are a special breed of people who are untouchable and do not answer to the Law, whenever they misconduct themselves.

Journalists are quick to accuse politicians of corruption and immoral conduct, however we were in this country when a senior journalist exchange valuable information for a black polythene bag and relocated into a top residential area. We were in this country when an investigative journalist made a story on Parliament House but shelved it because some valuables exchanged hands. We were in this country, when a journalist raped a lady in a hotel room and his colleagues violated the secrecy code, where a victim’s name was not to be published, but went on to publish it and the judge threw the case out of court, for their colleague to walk free.

Journalists in Ghana are not saints and so like all sinners like us, they must strive to do good in order to attain salvation.

Journalists should stop celebrating this drop in Ghana’s ranking in the WFPI by coming out to tell their horrifying stories, they must strive must to be truthful, objective and fair in their reportage at all times.

Hon Daniel Dugan


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