Award-winning investigative journalist, Manasseh Azure Awuni

An award-winning investigative journalist, Manasseh Azure Awuni, says the World Press Freedom Index ranking affirms journalists’ physical attacks and abuse in the country.

He cited several instances where journalists in the country have been abused in their line of duty to justify his affirmation of the report.

Mr Azure said for all these years that journalists and civil society organisations have raised concerns about the safety of journalists, government has treated the issue with little attention.

Speaking on Newsfile, Saturday, he noted that the issues highlighted in the report by Reporters Without Borders are similar to the concerns raised by many Civil Society Organisations and journalists in the country.

“They always almost try to defend and make it as if there was no problem, and some civil society groups and journalists were making noise.

“To the extent that people like Sir Sam Jonah even joined, and I thought they would take it seriously, but each time they told us there was no cause for alarm and so what we have seen is just a confirmation of what we have been talking about all along,” he stated.

According to him, the President’s lackadaisical attitude toward press freedom in the country is very worrying.

He expressed extreme disappointment in the persistent threats and murder of media practitioners.

Basing his judgement on Ghana’s performance in the World Press Freedom Index, Mr Azure said the President’s body language somewhat influences his party followers to continue attacking journalists.

“Last year, for instance, if you read the Information Minister’s press statement, they mentioned other countries that also did poorly compared to their previous rankings.

“Now, we have Ahmed Suale, who was murdered after he was openly threatened by a top politician of the governing party, and we had the President of this country goes the Ghana Bar Association conference in Takoradi and said inasmuch as the death was unfortunate, it was equally unfortunate for people to say that his killing was linked to press freedom.

“When the President acts in this manner, the followers begin to think that it is okay for us to do what we have to do or want to do to journalists,” he said.

In the latest Press Freedom Index, Ghana dropped 30 places from – 30th in 2021 to 60th in 2022, the lowest in 17 years since it placed 66th in 2005.

The report comes from the recent news that the Ghanaian government has been clamping down on dissent and claims of a surge in press freedom violations.

The report released to commemorate international Press Freedom Day scored Ghana 67.43, placing Ghana 60th on the index that monitors 180 countries.

Ghana recorded a decline in its indicative points from 78.67 per cent to 67.43 compared to last year.

According to Manasseh, “the difference is clearer than day and night” because “not only have we seen increased attacks, but we are looking at the severity and the actors involved.”

“It was very common to threaten somebody, and one would take it lightly, but if your colleague investigative journalist is put on television and threatened, and later that person is killed, you are going to treat threats seriously and differently.