GJA President Affail Monney

President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Roland Affail Monney, says reported cases of self-censorship by journalists must be addressed.

In an interview on Newsfile on Saturday, he argued that self-censorship is an enemy of press freedom, which must be dealt with appropriately.

He believes this will help eliminate fear among journalist and push them to be bold and credible.

“We need to look at it; we’ve come a long way from yesteryears when we were shackled by all kinds of laws, when we were enveloped in the so-called culture of silence. When I used to work at the GBC, it was even an offence to even play a gospel music.

“We used a story under JJ Rawlings and that story was as harmless as ever that Kenya was going to the polls. JJ Rawlings himself called into the newsroom and his first utterance was, ‘do you know I can sack you?’ So, I asked, ‘Sir, for what offence? For using a story,” he recounted.

Mr Affail Monney described the practice of journalism under the Rawlings administration as hellish.

According to him, “we cannot compare journalism practice under JJ Rawlings or in those hellish periods to what is happening now, even though we have challenges.

Journalists, including JoyNews’ Evans Mensah and GHOne’s Serwaa Amihere, admitted on the same show thatthey have had to censor themselves in the line of their duty in order not to incur the wrath of politicians.

They stated that many newsroom actors are now looking over their shoulders when working on stories that could affect powerful people.

“We are self-censoring more now than we used to do. You are writing a headline, and you are thinking a bit more about the implication of this headline than you would do before. For me, that is one of those silent areas we haven’t talked about.

“There must be a reason for this, and I have disagreed with the President quite forcefully when his public utterances, unfortunately, reinforce this view and leads journalists to self-censor a bit more.

“Many people won’t know, but in many newsrooms, including our own, colleagues do stories that are very critical…and they tell you they would come at you and in many newsrooms now, you see people say this daily.”

The US Department of State released its 2021 Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, citing Ghana for several human rights cases of abuse, including clamping down on free speech.

In a related development, the RSF described the press freedom situation in the country as problematic, adding that the safety of journalists has deteriorated in recent years because all law enforcement officers attacking journalists are not pursued.

According to the report, this has led journalists in the country to “increasingly resort to self-censorship” in order to protect their jobs and security.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa, Sulemana Braimah, has said the report on press freedom affirms the various concersn raised by keen advocates.

He noted that somehow, these concerns have been ignored by the government.

“State authorities must acknowledge that things are not the way they ought to be. So we need to all sit down, and government must accept that things are not normal, and we work towards improving our conditions,” he said on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, on the Super Morning Show.

Thus, he entreated state authorities to sit up and work hand-in-hand with other stakeholders of press freedom to improve the situation in the country.