The National Media Commission (NMC) has urged Government to affirm its unalloyed support for media freedom and independence with the same vigour that it displayed in the repeal of the Criminal Libel and Seditious Laws under the nation’s criminal code.
Mr Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh, the NMC Chairman made the appeal on Thursday in his presentation at the Second GJA 70th Anniversary Lecture in Accra.
Speaking on the topic “Is the Media under Siege?” Mr Ayeboafoh applauded the initiative of the Ministry of Information to develop a manual for the safety of journalists and media in the country.
He said it was left with all identifiable groups to cooperate and lend their support in coming out with functional policies to safeguard these freedoms.
He said all identifiable interest groups, including political parties, government and non-government bodies, traditional and religious entities, civil society organisations, the military and police, must sign and pledge a declaration to abide strictly by the guarantees of media freedom and independence, and in line with the International Federation of Journalists’ (IFJ) nomenclature ‘to respect the rights of working journalists’.
He said: “But as media professionals, even as we fight for zero tolerance towards impunity and attacks on media freedom, we must learn from the IFJ when it submits that ‘a story is not worth the life of a journalist’.”
“Journalists must learn to survive, to avoid injury, jail, expulsion or any of the other perils of our profession and still get the story.”
He said journalists must cooperate with the NMC by reporting all such incidents officially since each of them involve abuse of the right of media freedom and independence, which was under the mandate of the Commission.
Mr Ayeboafoh said the safety manual of the IFJ “Danger! Journalists at Work”, recommends that every attack on journalists must be reported, noting that, “Publicity also increases public awareness of this problem. If you know of attacks against journalists that have not been published ask your union to back up the issue with your editor. Information is the only weapon we have in fighting violence against journalists.”
He said the NMC was enjoyed by the Constitution to present a report on its activities annually to Parliament and the record of abuse or attacks on media freedom would ignite debate in Parliament, which would go a long way to help orient people to respect the right of media freedom and independence.
He said there was the need for Ghanaians to be oriented and conscientised to accept the reality of the constitutional guarantee of media freedom and independence.
Mr Ayeabofoh said the 1992 Constitution guarantees not only media freedom and independence, but also provides absolute immunity from criminal prosecution of journalists and publishers for their editorial opinions and views or the content of their publications.
Mr Ayeboafoh, who also gave historical perspectives of some infractions against media personnel from the 1980s into the Fourth Republican era, noted that: “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 to the practice of journalism with freedom and independence”.