Accra, November 3, 2014 – As the world marks International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists for the first time, media stakeholders in Ghana have called for more measures by regulatory bodies, training institutions and media actors to improve the quality of journalism and ensure the safety of practitioners. Some bemoaned the inadequate facilities for training journalists in the country, the toothless nature of the National Media Commission, the frequent attacks on journalists and the absence of a national mechanism to monitor and report on journalists’ safety.
The stakeholders made the call at a forum organized by UNESCO in partnership with the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO and the UN Information Centre, Accra to commemorate the Day. It brought together over 100 stakeholders to discuss the “state of journalists safety in Ghana” following a presentation by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) Ghana, a regional independent NGO that works to defend and promote the rights and freedoms of the media.
The presentation revealed a staggering record of 138 incidents of violation against journalists from 2005 till date with a record of 14 cases as at October this year. Most of these cases, according to Mr. Sulemana Braimah, the Executive Director of MFWA, were perpetrated by the security agencies including the Police and the Military and political party affiliates. Mr. Braimah said what is worrying is the “shrinking public support for the protection of journalists and increasing mistrust for journalists and the media as allies for the pursuit of social justice and inclusive development.” He noted that the public cites “unprofessional conduct of journalists” as justification for their attacks and this he said is “a dangerous trend for press freedom in Ghana”. He said journalists should work above reproach, devoid of sensationalism and polarization in order to earn the trust and respect of the populace. In his recommendations on the way forward, the Head of the MFWA called on the UN agencies and state actors to set up emergency response mechanisms for embattled journalists and follow up on violation reports. He added that the UN system should mainstream issues related to journalists’ safety and impunity into broad programmatic areas. He further called on the government to create mechanisms for specifically addressing violence against journalists and conduct immediate and effective investigations into incidents of violence against journalists, among others.
For his part, the Director of UNESCO office in Accra, Mr. Tirso Dos Santos, highlighted the relevance of the Day and expressed the hope that stakeholders would use such a platform to analyze the issue of journalists’ safety in Ghana and recommend mechanisms that will ensure they do their work without fear of reprisal. He added that a free press is needed in order to perpetuate the thriving democracy and freedom of expression in the country. He also took the opportunity to welcome efforts of Government and Legislature to enact the Right to Information Bill which will add to transparency in governance in Ghana.
The event was chaired by the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, Hon. Dzifa Gomashie. There were solidarity messages by the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO, National Media Commission and the Editor’s Forum, Ghana. They all commended the organisers for such an educative forum and expressed their support to ensure the safety of journalists in Ghana.