The Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), Mr Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh, has called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to affirm his unalloyed support for media freedom and independence in Ghana.
He said the President must demonstrate the same vigour that he displayed in the repeal of the criminal libel and seditious laws in the Criminal Code when he was the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General.
“There is something in such declaration because in so declaring, it tells everybody that this is the conduct that will not be countenanced and that is why I support those who are making that call,” he said.
Delivering a lecture to mark the 70th anniversary of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in Accra yesterday, Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh said: “I support the calls on President Akufo-Addo to solemnly declare his abhorrence of impunity and attacks on media personnel in Ghana.
“I equally applaud the initiative by the Ministry of Information to develop a manual for the safety of journalists and the media in the country.
It is left with all the identifiable groups to cooperate and lend their support by coming up with functional policies to safeguard these freedoms,” he said.
The event was attended by a number of journalists and members of the public.
Also present were the President of the GJA, Mr Affail Monney; his vice, Mrs Linda Asante-Adjei, and the immediate past Chairman of the NMC, Nana Kwasi Gyan-Appenteng.
Speaking on the topic: “Are the media besieged?” Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh said the 1992 Constitution guaranteed not only media freedom and independence but also provided absolute immunity from criminal prosecution of journalists and publishers for their editorial opinions and content in their publications.
Contrary to such constitutional guarantees, he said, many journalists had been brutalised and obstructed in the performance of their work by security personnel, deviant individuals, political fanatics and family members.
He referred to the “senseless murder of Ahmed Suale, the brutalisation of Latif Idris by policemen at the CID Headquarters, as well as the recent assault on Daily Graphic reporters Dela Russel Ocloo and Timothy Gobah and some Ghanaian Times staff”.
“These attacks cannot be justified under any circumstance in a free and democratic society, as they are needless, abominable and condemnable,” he added.
He said while in most cases individual policemen could be held responsible, the state could also be blamed in cases when victims, such as Latif, were required to identify the perpetrators or were detained by the police.
“In spite of these reprehensible and abominable developments, we cannot conclude with certainty and definitiveness that the media are besieged and that the present is not conducive for the practice of journalism with freedom and independence,” he said, adding: “No matter the number of attacks on media personnel, the media cannot be said to be under siege.”
However, according to Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh, no group or individual, no matter how powerful or influential he or she was, could emasculate or enmesh the media.
The NMC Chairman urged journalists who were attacked in the performance of their duties to refrain from negotiating with the perpetrators of such attacks for compensations.
Rather, he said, they must submit reports to the NMC for such assaults to be thoroughly investigated and dealt with in line with the rule of law.
Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh further stated that it was an affront to media freedom for any person or authority to purport to oust the inalienable rights of journalists to perform their duties in absolute freedom, no matter how irresponsible those journalists might be.
He reminded journalists that “Article 152 (5) requires all agencies of the mass media to, at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of the Constitution and hold the government accountable to the people”.
“This is a charge that is laid at the door of the media and no other institution, private or public, is given specific responsibility to hold our government accountable.
“It means that if the media fail to hold the government accountable to the people, they would have reneged on their responsibility,” he stated.
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