Press freedom is a priority - Akufo-Addo
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has called on governments the world over to put an end to state-sponsored acts that hinder the practice of good journalism, and rather provide conditions that make them contribute meaningfully to national development.
According to the President, it is imperative for governments to entrench the freedoms of the media to play its role in ensuring transparency and accountability, as well as contribute meaningfully to national discourse for development.
The President made the call when he delivered the keynote address at the World Press Freedom Day Awards Night celebration in Accra.
Ghana is hosting this year’s global celebration of the World Press Freedom Day, with over 500 journalists from across the world taking part in the event in Accra, which is marked every May 3.
This year’s celebration was under the theme ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law’.
The awards night honoured 31-year-old Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, known as Shawkan, as the laureate of the 2018 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize.
Shawkan has been in jail since August 14, 2013 when he was arrested while covering a demonstration at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square in Cairo. The award, which comes with a prize of $25,000, funded by the Guillermo Cano Isaza Foundation, paid tribute to his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression.
The President noted that though there were challenges with press freedom, a truly independent media was essential to protect and enable human rights and fundamental freedoms.
He said it is in recognition of the potential of the power of the media as a development tool that Ghana’s Fourth Republic made substantial provisions that guarantee the freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and other media as a fundamental human right, and making elaborate provisions to protect the freedom and independence of the media.
He noted further that it is in this vain that the erstwhile Kufuor administration led the processes for the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law in 2001, and had since contributed to the growth of a vibrant media that had won Ghana the reputation of having one of the most media friendly and liberal climates on the continent.
Whilst advocating a media free of government control, President Akufo-Addo urged the media to establish a responsible culture and to fulfil their obligations to build a knowledgeable society for the advancement of democracy and the people.
He said the media ought to demonstrate a high sense of responsibility in their reportage, and called on practitioners the world over to take a second look at the power they wielded and the obligation they owe society to ensure that integrity was not sacrificed for headlines or breaking news.
The President expressed worry at the increasing practice of misinformation by media practitioners in their quest to be the first in breaking the news and the deliberate misinformation campaigns lased with twisted facts. This, according to him, constitutes a major threat to the integrity of the news world.
President Akufo-Addo told the gathering that the Ghanaian people would continue to defend the right to free expression to the very end, because of their determination to build a free, open society with accountable governance.
“I will say, again, that I much prefer the noisy, boisterous, sometimes scurrilous media of today to the monotonous, praise-singing, sycophantic one of yesteryear. The Ghanaian media has, in fact, enriched the nations’ governance by its curiosity, investigative skills, and persistence,” he added.