Media freedom, free expression must be protected- CES panel demands

7 may, 2018 / By

The government has been urged to promote laws and practices that protect freedom of opinion and expression in the country.

The appeal was one of four recommendations by a panel put together at a public lecture organised by the Centre for European Studies (CES) in partnership with Media4Democracy with the support of the European Union Delegation in Ghana as part of the World Press Freedom Day.

The panel which included Ms. Fatou Jagne, West Africa Director for Article 19, Mr. Gilbert Sendujwa, Coordinator of the African Freedom of Information Centre, Dr. Roland Affail Monney, President of the Ghana Journalists Association and Mr. Seth Abloso, Coordinator of the Right to Information Coalition in Ghana, wants government to deal ruthlessly with persons who harass and assault journalists.

They also want government and Parliament to, as a matter of urgency, pass the Right to Information Bill into law in order to deal with the opacity and ensure access to information transparency in government.

“Government must ensure media freedom and pluralism, and foster understanding among public authorities about the dangers of unwarranted interference with impartial/critical reporting.

“Media houses must be resourced to help promote quality, independent and impartial journalism. Media owners and governments must play a role in achieving this,” the panel recommended.

They were speaking under the theme: “European and International Perspectives on Press Freedom, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information: Lessons for Ghana.”

Addressing the lecture, Ms Helen Darbishire noted that even though freedom of expression is common in transitional democracies, it is undermined by ignorance and lack of information by the ordinary citizenry and the media.

According to her, in many developing democracies, media pluralism, access to information, press freedom and the security of journalists are increasingly under threat.

She said national security, state of emergency and counterterrorism laws are increasingly criminalizing legitimate reporting, leading to unjust penalties for journalists, human rights defenders and those critical of the government.

She stated further that concerns about the role and responsibilities of global Internet intermediaries (ICT and social media companies) are growing, creating unprecedented regulatory and policing challenges.

While Reporters without Borders refer to 2017 as the least deadly year for professional journalists in 14 years, the figures remain alarming.

According to Darbishire, 65 journalists were killed in 2017, 326 are currently in prison, and 54 are held, hostage. Deaths of women journalists have doubled since 2016.

In Ghana, for instance, she noted that there are several reports of harassment and brutalities meted out to journalists in the conduct of their official duties by public officials.

The CES Director, Prof Ransford Gyampo, noted that there can be no meaningful discourse on development in a country without talking about the freedom and liberties of the people.

According to him, the libertarian society that many fledgeling democracies seek to construct as a strategy to fight poverty and underdevelopment would crumble if serious efforts are not made to promote the right of the individual to freely express himself or herself on given national issues with a view to constructively keeping regimes on their toes.

The lecture was attended by over 350 participants comprising students drawn from the Centre for European Studies of the College of Humanities, and Ghana Institute of Journalism.

Other participants were the Ghana Journalists Association, Right to Information Coalition, Media Practitioners, the EU-Delegation, Representatives of EU- Member Countries, and Representatives of Media4Democracy in Brussels, Belgium.



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