Former President John Agyekum Kufuor has advised journalists to be responsible in the use of media freedom and not abuse the influence they have on public opinion.

He noted that ‘the media’ sometimes wielded too much, power and needed to be careful not to act in ways, that could work against the national interest and stability.

The former President made those remarks at a forum on government-media relations in a developing democracy to mark the ninth anniversary of the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law.

The forum was also held as a prelude to a national conference to be held next year to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the landmark repeal.

The former President stressed that journalistic freedom should be accompanied by responsibilities and expressed his support for the extension of press freedoms across the continent.

He drew a distinction between criminal libel laws and laws of sedition, adding, “There should not be power without responsibility.”

He said the laws on sedition would -make the media more responsible and accountable for their actions.

He noted that the repeal of the law had brought about pluralism in the Ghanaian media, with the flourishing of more than 100 FM stations and private newspapers in the years following the repeal.

Mr Kufour indicated that although many journalists abused the freedom of expression they were granted after the repeal, he had never had any regret for that decision.

The Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa, Prof. Kwame Karikari, said the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law marked “the attainment of the freedom and independence of the tongue and the pen”,

He said the decision marked one of the most cardinal events in the construction of democracy in the country, as people were no longer afraid to criticise governments, and believed that other laws that fought against the freedom of journalists would be abolished.

The occasion was also used to introduce the “Declaration of Table Mountain” campaign, which, is aimed at clamouring for the abolition of insult and criminal defamation laws in Africa and the institution of a free press across the continent.

A representative from the World Association of Newspapers, Mr Amadou Kanoute, presented the document on the declaration to Mr Kufuor and invited him to sign in sup- port of the campaign.

He said the purpose of the campaign was to reaffirm the responsibility of the global representatives of publishers and editors to fight against laws which suppressed. media freedom.

However, former President Kufuor explained that although he agreed with the principles expounded in the document regaining the extension of press freedom, he would not sign it until caveats which recognized the dangers of unlimited press freedoms and the need or responsibility were added.

He cautioned of the global representatives of publishers and editors to fight irresponsible journalism and said it was important to prevent “elements that will mitigate against the ideals of press freedom”.

Mr Kanoute indicated that the proposed amendments would be considered.

Source: Daily Graphic

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