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Paying Lip Service To Press Freedom

Press freedom is a cherished value that many countries place a premium on. While some do their utmost to encourage and even nurture press freedom, others pay a lip service to the idea.

In Ghana, press freedom is an integral part of our democratic experiment or so we have been led to believe. It is enshrined in the constitution, and successive governments have tried to uphold it as best as they can.

Up until recently, Ghanaian journalists have been free to work without fear of intimidation or harassment. But no more. Things have taken a turn for the worse.

Ghanaian journalists now work and live in fear; it is the constant fear of being verbally harassed, physically manhandled and in the most frightful of cases, being snuffed out, killed.

This unfortunate situation has been made worse by the tragic silence of authorities. Governments have either chosen to look the other way as journalists are assaulted, brutalized and hounded, or they just don’t care a hoot about press freedom.

It will be unfair to apportion blame for the predicament of Ghanaian journalists.  Their harassment did not begin with the current NPP administration.

Intimidation and jailing of journalists were common occurrences in the PNDC era and in successive administrations that came after it.

While the current NPP administration has tried mightily to protect journalists and make their work much easy, it is worth noting that it has not demonstrated a willingness to act decisively when journalists are intimidated and killed.

The NPP’S behavior is the height of hypocrisy and negligence and has encouraged ugly behavior by the police and civilians. Ghanaian journalists continue to be accosted and beaten with impunity.

Barely three months ago, a young journalist was gunned down in broad day light. And, now reports have it that Joy News investigative reporter Manasseh Azure Awuni has been smuggled out of the country because of threats to his life for exposing the government’s ties to a militia.

More worrying, another young journalist who gallantly refused to be bribed by a former minister in the office of the President, had his house ransacked and his property destroyed.

Last week Ghana joined many nations around the world to celebrate World Press Day. But the idea is fast becoming an illusion in the country.

Once held in high regard as a country that encouraged press freedom, Ghana has fallen a few places down the ladder because of a lot has happened to the practitioners of the noble art of journalism.

All told, the fate of our democracy hinges on the commitment of governments to press freedom. If authorities think the intimidation of journalists is a way to avoid accountability for their actions and policies, then they have another thing coming.

Ghanaian journalists refuse to be intimidated; they will continue to critique the status quo and hold policies makers accountable. It is as simple as ABC.







[i] ABC News

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