Parliament’s Ranking Member on Foreign Affairs, Sam Okudzeto Ablakwa has lauded journalists in Ghana for their spirited reporting.
In a statement commemorating World Press Freedom Day, the North Tongu MP celebrated some notable media men who have received international recognition for their work.
“…this list must surely include Anas Aremeyaw Anas who was awarded this January at Lausanne, Switzerland for his “Number 12” expose, Manasseh Azure Awuni of the Multimedia Group who in October 2018 emerged as the West African Journalist of the Year and our own Joseph Opoku Gakpo of the Parliamentary Press Corps who has been adjudged the 2018 world best video journalist by the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ),” Ablakwa wrote.
The lawmaker also lauded the media for not just reporting stories “but take up the story as a cause and pursue it until there are clear and tangible results.”
Read his full statement below:
Right Honourable Speaker I am enormously grateful to you for this opportunity to render this statement to commemorate World Press Freedom Day which is being celebrated across the world today by all those who believe in the power of a free, pluralistic and independent press as a great force for good.
The United Nations General Assembly in 1993 proclaimed World Press Freedom Day to be observed every 3rd May. It is instructive to note that the processes leading to this declaration was spearheaded by African Journalists who in 1991 issued the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.
Mr. Speaker, back home in Ghana, our credentials which are globally acclaimed as a nation that values and respects the principles of media freedom and free expression especially in this Fourth Republican dispensation is not and cannot be in doubt. It is in the pursuit of this sacred objective that an entire chapter – Chapter Twelve of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana is dedicated to the “Freedom and Independence of the Media.” Indeed, Article 162 (1) – the first Article under Chapter 12 stipulates: “Freedom and independence of the media are hereby guaranteed.”
Mr. Speaker, just like all freedoms, media freedom was not handed over to us on a silver platter. Many have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice sometimes paying the ultimate price of death so as to nourish the roots of press freedom. On this day, therefore, we salute all journalists and honour them for their sacrifices, tribulations and toils. We also pay glowing tribute to the memory of journalists departed like Tiger Eye’s Ahmed Hussein-Suale who are no longer with the living but whose legacy in contributing towards a fair and just world lives forever.
Mr. Speaker, this year’s celebration according to Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO is under the theme: “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in times of Disinformation.”
As Ghana prepares for a watershed 8th election just next year, this theme is rather fortuitous. We must all reflect on the dangers posed by disinformation as a product of a toxic mix of abuse of technology, violation of data privacy, interference by rogue external elements and often with the active collaboration of unscrupulous insider actors. Fake News and a Weaponized Media that plays on our fears in order to divide us must be defeated. It is my hope that we shall draw lessons from how disinformation has eroded the democratic gains in other jurisdictions and get ahead of the curve to formulate policy and legislative reforms that will seek to protect our relatively nascent democracy.
Mr. Speaker, as we commemorate this day, we must take judicial notice of our decline in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index where we dropped from the rank of 23 to 27. Sadly, we also lost our status as Africa’s best ranked country in the World Press Freedom Index compiled annually by Reporters Without Borders which evaluates the state of journalism in 180 countries.
This latest ranking released only a couple of weeks ago demands sober reflection; we have come too far as a country to have any threshold of tolerance whatsoever for reports such as the police brutalities meted out to the three Ghanaian Times journalists (Raissa Sambou, a lactating mother, Malik Sulleman, a court reporter, Abdul Salifu Rahman, Assistant Editor), that of Latif Iddrisu of Joy News, and other incidents of assault like those against Victor Kawukume and Timothy Gobah all of the Daily Graphic. We must send a clear message to all that this nation will not countenance any abuse or attack whatsoever on journalists carrying out their legitimate duties.
Mr. Speaker, I shall at this juncture like to commend the media in Ghana for entrenching a new wave of activist journalism. A positive trend is emerging where journalists do not only tell the story and move on but take up the story as a cause and pursue it until there are clear and tangible results. In this regard, I congratulate the Media Coalition Against Galamsey, the spirited campaign to find the kidnapped Takoradi Girls, the campaign to disband political vigilante groups and the remarkable story of resilience of the Right to Information Coalition. This is a most refreshing and inspiring development that we must all encourage and indeed provide the necessary support as a legislative arm, seeing that we are natural allies in our oversight mandate.
May I take a moment Mr. Speaker to celebrate Ghanaian journalists who have in recent times made Ghana proud by winning coveted international awards: this list must surely include Anas Aremeyaw Anas who was awarded this January at Lausanne, Switzerland for his “Number 12” expose, Manasseh Azure Awuni of the Multimedia Group who in October 2018 emerged as the West African Journalist of the Year and our own Joseph Opoku Gakpo of the Parliamentary Press Corps who has been adjudged the 2018 world best video journalist by the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ).
On this day, I salute our gallant compatriots of the Fourth Estate – the stringers working under harsh conditions in remote areas, the investigative journalists who brave the odds to expose wrong, the production teams who must go to work at ungodly times, the media house owners who strive through adverse economic conditions, and our very own Parliamentary Press Corps without whom what transpires here will stay within the confines of this Chamber – to all of you, I say Ayekoo and Akpe Ga.
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