Media should be classified among COVID-19 frontline workers and be included in any stimulus package, Mr Zakaria Tanko Musah, a Law Lecturer and Legal Counsel of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, stated in Accra.
He explained that, it would enable media practitioners to continue to play critical roles of dissemination of vital information as well as educate the public effectively and efficiently.
Mr Musah made the recommendation in his virtual presentation during Web Symposium, which was organised by the Institute for International Journalism, E. W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University, on the theme; “International Media and COVID-19: Challenges for Journalists and Educators”.
Speaking on the topic: “COVID-19 Challenges and Opportunities for the Ghanaian Journalist,” Mr Musah said the media landscape in Ghana was liberalized and it evolved with the advent of the 1992 Constitution.
He said Chapter 12 of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution guaranteed the freedom and independence of the media and in addition, the Right to Information Law was assented to by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on May 21, 2019.
He said currently, in virtually every district of Ghana, there was a local radio station and newspapers with national reach were also available, with access to television stations.
He reiterated that journalism had played significant roles in safeguarding Ghana’s constitution and other democratic efforts and cited the use of investigative journalism to expose wrongdoing in society and serve as Corruption Watchdogs.
With regards to the media acting as agents of social change, he cited the “Fight against Galamsey and Indiscipline on our roads”.
He said COVID-19 posed economic challenges to Ghanaian journalists, such as the falling advertising revenues, halt in economic activities and journalists losing their jobs.
Others are; exposure of the inadequacies with the use of technology to source and disseminate news and the use of virtual platforms for publications.
On COVID-19 Legal Challenges for Ghanaian journalists, Mr Musah said: “A person who sends false or fake news on the COVID-19 pandemic through electronic means such as social media especially WhatsApp, to the extent that it endangers the safety of any person or prejudices the efficiency of life saving services such as the steps being taken by government to halt and contain the virus, commits an offence and may be liable to a fine or a jail term not exceeding five years.”
“Section 208 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to publish falsehood; “any statement, rumour or report, which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb public peace, knowing or having reason to believe that the statement, rumour or report is false.”
Other Legal Challenges, he mentioned were public interest versus privacy of individuals who had contracted the virus and the right of the public to know.
Mr Musah said the ethical dilemma of putting out factual information about COVID-19 that could lead to panic was also another challenge.
He intimated that COVID-19 had created opportunities for journalists to embrace technology as a necessary evil in their work.