Activities marking the global celebrations of this year’s World Press Freedom Day opened in Ghana on Wednesday.
The event, including conferences, symposia and exhibitions, for the main celebrations on Thursday was jointly hosted by the government of Ghana and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Opening the two-day event, Deputy Director General of UNESCO Getachew Engida underscored the importance of press freedom as key requirements of development and democracy.
“Only when journalists can report without fearing for their lives and when citizens can access information to make informed decisions can democracy and development thrive,” he pointed out.
The UNESCO official said that the courts needed to join efforts to eliminate the fear factor which led to self-censorship and silencing of societies and protected journalists against attacks, both online and offline, and demonstrate the power of rule of law to turn back impunity for crimes against journalists.
This, according to Engida, was the reason the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) had recognized the importance of public access to information and fundamental freedoms.
He also urged stakeholders to help devise means of empowering female journalists and protecting them from gender-based harassment while countering disinformation, rumor, hatred and stereotypes to keep journalists as a reference point in the midst of the information profession.
The UNESCO official hailed Ghana for its credentials as a defender of media and press freedoms through building a strong media landscape with support from UNESCO.
Although Ghana is celebrated for its high credentials of press freedom, its Right To Information (RTI) Bill transcends six different parliaments but the nearest it came to passage was the eve of the dissolution of the last parliament when the bill was brought onto the floor, but was rejected by legislators.
In an interview, Nnenna Nwakanma of the World Wide Web Foundation urged Ghana’s parliament to pass the Right To Information (RTI) Bill into law before this year runs out.
“The people who were born when this bill came to parliament are now going to secondary school, so what is happening? It is not even a Nana Akufo-Addo thing; it is not a Mahama thing; it’s been there,” she lamented.
She said it was a paradox that Ghana ranked number one on media freedom ladder but its name was missing from countries that had passed the RTI, while urging legislators to give the people their right to information.