A senior lecturer at the University of Ghana, Professor Ransford Gyampo, has cautioned that, even though there is the need to safeguard press freedom in the country, media practitioners must not be made 'tin gods'.
According to him, for Ghana's democracy to thrive, the media must be made to work in a free and convenient environment. Nonetheless, he noted that efforts at creating a vibrant media, must not produce a crop of media personnel, who act outside the scope of ethical conduct.
"As a nation, we must defend press freedom. But let us also be sure that we do not, in the process, make some people tin gods and tin goddesses. We must condemn the disingenuous attacks by social media political land guards and call on government to be more tolerant.
The public utterances and body language of higher public officials, particularly the President of the Republic, from now onwards, must admit the challenges we face and send a clear message of intolerance for acts that undermine press freedom", he stated in a Facebook post on Saturday.
In his post, he added that, "we must reject any attempt at foisting media tyranny on our democratic practice. It must be made clear to media practitioners that they cannot also be above the law, simply because they have access to certain platforms that others do not have.
They must rethink their sensationalism and deliberate attempts by some to lie, dent reputations and refuse to properly retract and apologize with impunity. These would always serve as a recipe for actions from all quarters to undermine press freedom".
He further stated in his post that, "while the government has a role to play to address the current poor show in terms of media freedom, media practitioners themselves must also have a role to play in terms of being responsible while freely going about their work. For, media freedom can never be licentious for media tyranny".
Professor Gyampo's comments, were on the back of a recent report on Ghana's Press Freedom Index by, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a France-based NGO on Tuesday, May 3.
The report detailed Ghana’s performance in terms of press freedom.
According to them, Ghana has dropped 30 places in the latest press freedom index put together by Reporters Without Borders for 2022.
The report, which was released to commemorate International Press Freedom Day, 2022, scored Ghana 67.43, placing the country 60th on the index that monitored 180 countries.
Following the report, public opinion has been divided on the state of press freedom in the country.
While some have asserted that, the report is an accurate reflection of the state of the press in Ghana, others have questioned it.
Touching on the substantive report, Prof. Gyampo reiterated in his Facebook post on Saturday, that it is unpatriotic for Ghanaians to embrace reports from foreign outlets, without recourse to local research findings.
In an earlier interview on the AM Show on Thursday, he explained that, the practice whereby foreign organisations conduct research on happenings in Ghana, is neocolonial and an affront to the country’s sovereignty.
According to him, Ghana is an independent nation, therefore he does not understand why foreigners consistently embark on such exercises to assess the country.
Speaking to host, Benjamin Akakpo, the political scientist stated that, as far as he is concerned, there are many credible outlets in Ghana. Therefore, it is needless for a foreign organisation to conduct research on press freedom in a sovereign state.
“My principled position has always been to be against some of these works and reports from foreigners. What is their locus in Ghana matters? And then also, who authorized them to come and conduct these studies? What is their rationale?
Doing it all the time does not mean we cannot think to advocate for a halt of their dictatorship. It is neocolonial for an independent sovereign country to always be dependent on the assessment, comments and evaluations of bodies that are found outside the confines of that sovereign state.
It doesn’t help our quest to assert ourselves as a sovereign nation. You don’t think that we have bodies in Ghana that can conduct tests to independently assess media freedom and press freedom in Ghana, than always rely on assessments from foreigners?”, Professor Gyampo quizzed.
He also added that, “Regardless of whatever they say, my position is that foreigners have no business to come and tell us how we are faring in terms of our democracy, and in terms of our quest to promote media freedom. They should stay away. We can do that ourselves,” he declared.
Professor Gyampo therefore called on the media and other relevant stakeholders, to stop placing premium on findings, which are conducted by foreign institutions. In his view, such a practice is not “nationalistic” and therefore focus should be on locally brewed content.
Touching on claims that local reports are often stained with propaganda and political manipulations, he said there are credible institutions such as the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), that can embark on independent findings to unearth relevant developments in the country.
Meanwhile, Minister for Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has stated that, government has welcomed the report by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), on Ghana’s press freedom, with measures to rectify the anomalies.
According to him, the report by RSF is a baseline reference document, which may be used to gauge Ghana’s press freedom in the future.
In a statement on Wednesday, May 4, the sector Minister stressed that even though the publishers called for circumspection in comparing the 2022 report to that of 2021, due to the differences in methodology, government will still consider a raft of measures to improve the country’s rating.
“The Government of Ghana in pursuance of its desire to continuously promote press freedom and the safety of journalists, intends to do the under-listed;
- Work in collaboration with the National Media Commission to deepen the execution of the Coordinated Mechanism on the Safety of Journalists.
- Collaborate with stakeholders including Civil Society Organisations in deepening education for State and non-State actors on the safety of journalists.
- To address the RFS’ concern about the poor economic conditions of most journalists in the country, government will continue engagements with media associations including media owners to improve the working and economic conditions of journalists.
- Collaborate with stakeholders in the fight against disinformation and spread of fake news”, the statement revealed.
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