The Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo, has asked media practitioners to exercise discernment, responsibility and strike a fine balance in determining public interest over the breach of individual privacy during their investigations.
She said the act of breaching the privacy should only be used as the last resort after all ethical methods in getting the story had been exhausted.
This, she said, should be done with the security agencies empowered with that responsibility and should be in the confines of the Law.
“You cannot break into somebody’s house and install camera’s claiming you are conducting investigation in the interest of the public,” she said.
Justice Akuffo said this when she delivered the keynote address at the 23rd Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Awards ceremony held in Accra, which recognised 36 journalists for works done in 2017.
Mr Bernard Koku Avle won the 2017 PAV Ansah Journalist of the Year Award. A total of 36 journalists, individuals and corporate organisations were awarded for their contribution to journalistic professionalism and media freedom.
The ceremony, which was on the theme: “State of Investigative Journalism: Boundaries of Privacy and Borders of the Public Interest,” saw the Ghana News Agency picking five awards.
Justice Akuffo said it was only the court that could determine the limit of privacy with regards to public interest saying the judgment should not be left to the whims and caprices of any individual.
She noted that considering the fluid nature of the subject, journalists must be guided by their professional Code of Ethics and must know where their rights end and where another person’s right begins.
The outcome of an investigative report should not be judgmental and journalists should not take position as sometimes done in their reports, The Chief Justice said.
Justice Akuffo said pronouncement of guilt or otherwise was a prerogative of the court of competent jurisdiction in line with the Rule of Law.
She called for the intensification of legal education in areas of Constitutionalism and Constitutionality for journalists to understand the boundaries of public interest and privacy so that they would not arbitrarily infringe on the rights of individuals under the pretext of public interest.
The Chief Justice said advancement of technology had become crucial in the work of journalists but cautioned them not to abuse it under the pretext of public interest to invade the privacy of others.
She called on the GJA to periodically review its Code of Ethics to be in sync with the changing trends.
Mr Roland Affail Monney, the GJA President, said Ghana had, over the years, recorded an impressive record regarding press freedom and had moved from a second place to first in Africa.
That, notwithstanding, journalists were sometimes abused unlawfully in the course of executing their duties, and called on stakeholders, especially the Ghana Police Service, to act and punish the culprits to serve as a deterrent to others.
“The cases of media attacks on journalists, if not checked, can pollute the oxygen of press freedom in the country,” he said.
On welfare of journalists, Mr Monney said the leadership of GJA had engaged with the Trade Union Congress to further the wellbeing of members.
He said the Association had rolled out an insurance scheme and commenced a housing project for the members to solve the accommodation problems they faced.