Joseph Wemakor: Ghanaian journalists must unite to stand up for themselves to resist attacks on press freedom

Press freedom in Ghana has been a consistent issue of concern for many years, with journalists having to face varying degrees of harassment and attacks for carrying out their duties.

In the past few years, there has been an increase in cases of these attacks, prompting journalists to demand more protection from the government and other stakeholders.

A recent ranking by the Reporters Without Borders portrayed that Ghana continues to rank poor on the global press freedom index.

According to the report, the country dropped two spots from 60 in 2022 to 62 among 180 countries listed on the index. Ghana dropped 30 spots from 2021 to rank at 60 in 2022.

Ghana scored 65.93 out of a possible 100, from the 67.43 it scored in the 2022 ranking of 180 countries.

The latest ranking places Ghana in the ninth position in Africa, behind Namibia, 80.91, South Africa, 78.6, Cape Verde, 75.72, Seychelles 75.71, Gambia, 71.06, Ivory Coast 68.83, Burkina Faso, 67.64, and Niger 66.84.

This is Ghana’s second consecutive drop on the log from the 30th position it occupied in the 2021 edition of the ranking.

Undoubtedly, the above ratings of Ghana in terms of press freedom raises an alarm about the safety of journalists, media practitioners and activists alike.

This article looks at press freedom in Ghana, the challenges journalists face, and the need for journalists to unite to stand up for themselves to avert attacks.

Press Freedom in Ghana

Press freedom is essential in any democratic society, and Ghana is no exception. In Ghana, the constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech, expression, and the press. This constitutional provision is supposed to protect journalists and guarantee that they are free to report on events without fear of retribution. However, the reality is that press freedom in Ghana is often under threat.

Ghana is one of the most vibrant media environments in Africa, with over 400 radio stations, 100 TV stations, and several newspapers. The media play a vital role in informing the public, exposing corruption, and holding the government accountable. However, the media’s role can sometimes lead to friction between the media and those in power.

Challenges Facing Ghanaian Journalists

One of the biggest challenges facing Ghanaian journalists is the lack of protection. Journalists in Ghana are often subjected to threats, harassment, and attacks from individuals with vested interests. These attacks can be physical or verbal, with journalists facing the risk of injury or even death. In some cases, media houses have even been attacked, with equipment destroyed, and journalists threatened.

These attacks are a clear violation of the fundamental principles of press freedom. The media is an essential pillar of democracy, and it is the responsibility of journalists to report on issues that affect the society. Journalists have the right to report the truth, and they should not be intimidated or threatened for doing their job.

Another challenge facing Ghanaian journalists is the lack of access to information. Journalists are often denied access to information, especially from government officials. This lack of access to information makes it difficult for journalists to carry out their duties effectively, as they are unable to report on issues that affect the public.

Journalists in Ghana also face the challenge of censorship. The government sometimes exerts pressure on media houses to report in a certain way or to avoid certain topics. This pressure can lead to self-censorship on the part of journalists, as they are afraid of the consequences of reporting certain stories.

Why Journalists Must Unite to Stand Up for Themselves to Avert Attacks

Journalists in Ghana must unite to stand up for themselves and avert attacks. Unity is crucial in ensuring that journalists can resist attacks and demand protection. Journalists must come together, regardless of their affiliations, to demand that their rights are protected, and they are given the freedom to do their work without fear of retribution.

It is time for journalists in Ghana to unite and stand up for themselves. They must form alliances with civil society groups, media organizations, and other stakeholders to defend their rights and freedoms. They should not allow themselves to be cowed into silence by threats or attacks.

One way that journalists can come together is by forming associations. These associations can then act as a platform for journalists to share their experiences, discuss challenges facing the industry, and demand solutions from the government and other stakeholders. Associations can also provide training opportunities for journalists to improve their skills and knowledge.

There is also a need for journalists to push for laws that protect their rights. Ghanaian journalists need laws that guarantee their safety, right to access information, and freedom of expression. These laws need to be enforced, and those who violate them should be punished to serve as a deterrent to others.

The government also has a critical role to play in this regard. The authorities should make a clear statement condemning these attacks and take steps to ensure that journalists can do their work without fear of harassment or intimidation. The government should also support efforts to improve the safety and protection of journalists.

Journalists in Ghana can also learn from their counterparts in other countries. For example, journalists in the Philippines have formed a network called the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), which advocates for press freedom and the protection of journalists. This organization is an excellent example of how journalists can come together to defend their rights and work to uphold the principles of press freedom.

Additionally, Ghanaian journalists should embrace technology and social media to foster greater collaboration and information-sharing. They can leverage the power of new media to reach a broader audience and create a network of supportive communities. Social media can be an effective tool for mobilizing support for press freedom, building alliances, and promoting a culture of openness and transparency.

Journalists in Ghana must also take steps to improve their skills and professionalism. They should embrace best practices in journalism and uphold the highest ethical standards. Professionalism and credibility are essential elements of the media’s role in society, and journalists should strive to be accurate, fair, and balanced in their reporting.

Finally, journalists must recognize that press freedom is not just their fight, but it is a fight for everyone. The media is the watchdog of society, and it is the responsibility of all citizens to support efforts to defend press freedom and protect journalists. The public can play a decisive role in creating an enabling environment for journalists to carry out their work without fear of censorship, harassment, or violence.

Conclusion

Press freedom is an essential part of any democratic society, and Ghana is no exception. Ghanaian journalists, who play a crucial role in informing the public, are often subjected to various forms of harassment and attacks, making press freedom a constant source of concern.

However, journalists must unite to stand up for themselves and avert attacks. They need to form associations, demand legal protection, and push for the enforcement of existing laws to ensure that their rights are protected.

They must form alliances with civil society groups, government agencies, and other stakeholders to defend their rights and freedoms.

The government has an essential role to play in supporting press freedom and protecting journalists. Journalists must embrace technology and social media to foster greater collaboration and information-sharing.

They should also strive to improve their skills and professionalism while recognizing that press freedom is not just their fight, but a fight for everyone. By doing so, journalists can continue to serve the public interest without fear of retribution.

Source: Joseph Kobla Wemakor

The writer is a seasoned journalist, National SDGs Champion and Founder/Executive Director of Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG)

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