Friday, 17 May 2013

Press Freedom Issues

For the past 20years the UN General Assembly has adopted May 3rd every year to celebrate World Press Freedom Day, with the goal to draw attention to the fundamental principles of press freedom across the globe. It is also a time to remind governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. Above all, World Press Freedom Day serves as a time for sober reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics.
As Ghanaian Journalists joined their colleagues to celebrate the day, quite a number of issues came up for discussion. Among them are remunerations for Journalists, treatment meted out to Journalists at public functions, ethical issues and media legislation. For the lay person and most professionals it is safe to say that Journalists are free to publish or broadcast without hindrance. Yes, clearly censorship is perhaps a thing of the past since the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law in 2001.

However, developments in recent time have caused some journalists to ask the question, are we really safe? Some Journalists have complained bitterly of maltreatment at public functions especially one that involved the President. With the recent being this year’s 6th March Independence Anniversary Celebration where two Journalists were reportedly manhandled for breaching security guidelines. After investigations the report did not favor the victims. This has generated a debate among the media fraternity to the extent that some are calling for a boycott of all military functions. What is now heartwarming is that the military have dialogued with the Ghana Journalists Association and have not only rendered an apology to the Journalists, but have promised to replace the damaged camera and any equipment and compensate the victims. In as much as we empathize with our colleagues in the fraternity for their agony, we should be cautioned that as media personnel we need to respect and obey instructions just as anybody.Having the power of the pen or the camera should not be a license for one to think he or she is above the law. It is incumbent on Journalists to also use dialogue and tact when dealing with security details during such functions as this will go a long way to minimise the occurrences of such rift. On another note, Minister of Information and Media Relations, Mahama Ayariga who addressed the media at the World Press Freedom Day Celebration in Accra congratulated all Journalists for contributing to the relative peace and democracy in the country. He was however of the view that Journalists are not covering social or economic issues enough, as compared to coverage giving to politics. It could be said that Ghanaians simply seem to be more interested in politics than anything else. Every conversation in this country has political undertones; to the extent that one wonders if there will come a day when political coloration of anything in this country will be nil?

Journalists have a lot of work to do in the area of political depolarization. It is also encouraging to hear from our Minister that there are policies in place to improve capacity building of Journalists. Some will like to call it training. Training is a good thing, but it must not end there. There should be a mechanism in place to measure, monitor and evaluate the impact of the training. That way specific needs can be addressed in the future to make the media landscape in Ghana a better one for all. Remuneration and total welfare of the Journalists are discussions that have been on the table for a very long time. This is not the first time that the GJA is pushing to be unionized, so it can negotiate for better salaries for its members. The GJA should say when the Unionization process will be completed and where the process has gotten to as of today. The private media must also be happy to learn that government is working out modalities on how to share government advertisement between the private and public media. It is gratifying to note that dialogue on this score is going on because the government recognizes the role of both the private and public media in working to build and sustain Ghana’s democracy. The media truly holds the key to Ghana’s development as the fourth estate of the realm, but a legal frame work such as the passage of the Broadcasting Bill and the Freedom of Information Bill will be a feather in the cap of Journalists as these will promote greater efficiency and higher Journalistic standard in the country.


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