About 100 countries across the globe, under the aegis of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Federal Republic of Ethiopia and the African Union Commission, yesterday, commemorated World Press Freedom Day.


It was the 26th edition, the global conference of which took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the theme: Media for DemocracyJournalism and Elections in times of disinformation which is closely linked to the objectives of the United Nations (UN)Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Development Agenda 2063.


The SDGs and the African Development Agenda 2063 seek to promote an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice sand the rule of law.


African Development Agenda 2063 has earmarked under its Aspiration 3, a specific goal on Democratic values, practices, universal principle of human rights, justice and the rule of law.


The goal has also identified that democratic values, practices, universal principle of human rights, justice and the rule of law are entrenched as one of its priority areas to be realized by the year 2063―which will ensure that at least 70% of the people perceive the press and exchange of information as free and that the freedom of expression prevails.


World Press Freedom Day, each year, brings to the fore the fundamental principles of press freedom and provides the opportunity to evaluate how the press have been faring globally. It also raises awareness about the important role of the media in securing peace, unity and development, globally.


In Ghana, the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) hosted this year’s event which was chaired by Mr Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh, Chairman of the National Media Commission.


Mr Ayeboafoh stressed the need for press freedom to go hand in hand with professional responsibility, adding that the interest of the public mattered more in the discharge of the work of journalists.


He condemned political vigilantism and the over promotion of politicians in public discourse, and urged journalists to hold government accountable and not to take sides, adding that journalists should fight for fundamental human rights and promote the right of the electorate to exercise their freedom of choice in elections.


Delivering the key note address at the event, Mr Pius Hadzide, Deputy Minister for information, assured the media of Government’s commitment to supporting measures that expanded the frontiers of free expression, in the advancement of democracy and congratulated the Ghanaian media for its contribution to nation-building through partnership in the fight against military dictatorship, corruption, illegal mining and the promotion of health and quality education.


Mr Hadzide disclosed that the Ministry of Information had begun consultations towards the implementation of the Law on the Freedom of Information and the Media Capacity Enhancement Programme which aimed at boosting the capacity of media practitioners in the delivery of their mandate.


He said before July, this year, Government would also introduce the National Co-ordination Mechanism for the Safety of Journalists which aimed to boost protection for media practitioners.


In a welcome address, Mr Affail Money, President, GJA, expressed concern about the decline in Ghana’s press freedom ranking to third position in Africa and the 27th in the world―a development he attributed to the cancer of impunity which occasioned attacks on and threats against journalists.


Mr Monney said through ethical training programmes, GJA, with support from Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN) Ghana, would support Government’s initiatives that aimed at enhancing the capacity of journalists to help cure the spread of ethical bankruptcy and professional mediocrity in sections of the media.


He said GJA was on a mission to repurpose journalism and called for support from all stakeholders to actualize the agenda as well as others which would be rolled out to mark the 70th anniversary of the GJA, this year.


He appealed to Government to consult widely on the process of digital migration so that Ghanaians would fully benefit from the technology, deepen their democracy and freedom of expression guaranteed.


In his remarks, Mr Roberto Quiroz II, Public Affairs Officer, United States (US)Embassy in Ghana, renewed the commitment of the US Embassy in Ghana to promoting a free press.


Mr Quiroz II said the US valued the freedom of the press and an independent media as key components of democratic governance. He expressed concern that Ghana’s reputation for media freedom was facing a decline due to attacks on journalists and called for serious efforts to reverse the situation. 


Speaking at the function, Ms Mavis Kitcher, President, Association of Women in the Media (ASWIM) expressed concern about the dangers associated with the upsurge of citizen journalism such as propaganda, hate speech, fake news and character assassination.


Ms Kitcher urged media professionals to counter fake news and misinformation by upholding the ethics of the profession while urging society to be vigilant and ensure that the freedom of the press was upheld and the safety of journalists guaranteed to create for them a healthy reporting environment.


She said the sacrifices made to achieve media pluralism in Ghana were too costly to be taken for granted, hence the need to defend these freedoms.


Ms Adjoa Yeboah-Afari, Chairperson, Editors Forum of Ghana (EFG), in a statement, reiterated the concern about the damage that social media could cause, but was quick to add that the most effective weapon against such damage―disinformation, propaganda and lies― was factual reporting and professionalism.


Mr Edwin Arthur, who delivered a message on behalf the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana(PRINPAG) identified the lack of an enforceable regulatory mechanism to ensure that media practitioners plied their profession in strict adherence to the acceptable tenets and standards of journalism practice.


Mr Arthur, therefore, urged GJA, NMC and PRINPAG and the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association(GIBA) to champion the passage of a law to regulate the conduct of journalism practice in Ghana and to ensure that the Broadcasting Bill was passed into law.


Mr Arthur also identified the training regime for journalists as another key challenge to the professional practice of journalism, citing some training institutions which were churning out substandard products, while calling for refresher courses for members in order to sharpen their professional skills.


In message, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General underscored the importance of a free press for peace, justice, sustainable development, human rights and a cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power.


Mr Guterres said no democracy was complete without access to transparent and reliable information, adding that facts, not falsehood, should guide people as they chose their representatives.


He condemned anti-media rhetoric’s, violence and the harassment of journalists, adding that when media workers were attacked, society as a whole would pay the price and called on all stakeholders to defend the rights of journalists, whose efforts helped to build a better world.


Source: G.D. Zaney, Esq.


Created: 06 May 2019
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