General News of 2014-05-02

Press freedom under threat - Prof. Karikari

Journalism and Communications expert, Professor Kwame Karikari, says politicians are hiding behind the judiciary to muscle the press.

He said recent huge damages awarded against newspapers in favour of politicians by the courts were indirectly stifling freedom of the press.

“Majority of libel cases are filed by politicians. In nearly all cases, the politicians have gone to court, ignoring as if in disdain, the complaint settlement mechanisms of the National Media Commission (NMC). It is tempting to conclude that by spitting the constitutional option, the politicians are fishing more for cash than are looking to redeem some image,” the immediate past Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) complained.

Prof Karikari was speaking at the British Council Hall, Accra, on Tuesday evening at the 10th Kronti ne Akwamu lecture under the theme: ‘The Paradox of Voice Without Accountability in Ghana’.

The annual Kronti ne Akwamu public lecture is one of the Centre for Democratic Governance (CDD) flagship programmes which features distinguished scholars and practitioners around the world to share their experience on democracy building and fostering good governance.

He said in addressing the threats, “We should look at some of the things that the media do that weakens or threatens their freedoms and debases citizens’ right to free expression.”

“The first is what I will call (with apologies to General Mosquito), the ‘Kwasia bi nti’ problem. This is the discreet threat to press freedom by the spate of libel suits and the resultant high compensation damages imposed by the courts. In recent months, the Daily Graphic has been fined to pay GHc100,000, DAILY GUIDE to pay GHc300,000 and another thousands.”

He said in the first place, the problem had come about by what he called “recklessness of the media," adding that “much of the time, their actions are driven by partisan political motives where they abandon basic ethical and professional norms.”

Prof Karikari said the new compensations being awarded by the courts “weaken the media’s sustainability to remain on the market particularly the print media and their resolve to remain independent.”

He bemoaned the lack of checks on the activities of serial callers in the media who, he said, have now been promoted to political party communicators saying, “When they are unleashed, they produce a desired effect of frightening citizens who express views contrary to that of their government or parties.”

“Government cannot make laws that take the citizens right to freedom of expression. However, nothing stops government from paying out of mine and your taxes hoards men and women whose job it is to, seemingly utilising their right to free speech to shut down or silence mine and your voice.”

He said ‘ethnocentrism and political party sectarianism’ had crept into the body politic of Ghana and advised the public to read between the lines.

“By now, we should be aware that more and more, the interests of political party leaders and beneficiaries of the largesse of power and those of the people are as parallel as two railway lines. To give power to the relevance of voice for social change, we must be ready to add the muscle of political activism.”

“We must live fully the full import of freedom of expression, demonstrate grotesquely all peacefully. We must fight the polarisation imposed by political parties and widen and expose the polarisation between patriotism and a political culture increasingly determined by what I call the Vicky ambition, the principle of only one million dollars.”

Source: Daily Guide
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