Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on Ghana government to put in place pragmatic measures to address the incessant attacks on press freedom.
The call comes on the back of serious press freedom violations witnessed in the country in the past two weeks, including a physical attack on a radio station, a physical attack on a Ghana News Agency reporter and the arrest of two TV journalists.
RSF, in a statement signed by Sadibou Marong, Director of the West Africa Bureau and copied to the Ghana News Agency, in Accra, on Monday, said Ghanaian authorities must react to these violations and guarantee the safety of the country’s media personnel.
Benya FM, a radio station based in Elmina, a coastal town 150 km southwest of the capital, Accra, has been off the air ever since three heavy-set men burst in on the evening of 16 May, kicked and punched radio show host, Osofo Blessing and his producer, Nana Gyefo, and smashed the station’s equipment.
Programme Director, Mr Usman Kwaku Dawood told RSF the assailants were supporters of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) who were unhappy with the way some of Benya FM’s shows covered such subjects as the government’s mismanagement of the fishing industry in the Elmina region.
“At the request of the information ministry, which condemned the attack in a statement on 18 May, the police opened an investigation and arrested three suspects, who were released on bail at a court hearing on 20 May. The next hearing in the case is due to be held on 28 June,” it added.
The statement also noted Prince Acquah, a reporter working for the Ghana News Agency (GNA), was attacked by NPP supporters in Ajumako, a town 120 km west of Accra, on 2 May.
Accosted while filming an altercation between several NPP members, he was accused of being a member of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and was pushed to the ground, it said, adding that this attack was also being investigated.
“These repeated abuses against journalists and media outlets amount to persecution.
“After the publication of RSF’s latest annual World Press Freedom Index, in which Ghana fell 30 places, the Government undertook to defend and promote press freedom. The authorities must now react and, as promised, ensure that journalists can work freely and safely throughout the country,” the statement noted.
The latest press freedom violation was the arrest of Metro TV reporter Derrick Adotey and his cameraman in Accra on 17 May after they filmed a document listing the charges brought against Oliver Mawusi Barker-Vormawo, an activist, who was recently arrested.
The two journalists were held at East Legon police station before being released later the same day.
“RSF already voiced concern about the increase in press freedom violations in February, after three journalists were arrested in the space of eight days and a fourth was physically attacked by a police officer.
It added that the attack on Benya FM was the second on a radio station in the space of four months, after ten masked men attacked Radio Ada, a community radio 100 km east of Accra, in January, injuring two journalists and damaging equipment.
“RSF has registered a total of 14 cases of abusive treatment of journalists in Ghana – five arrests and nine cases of violence – since the start of 2022,” it said.
Ghana is ranked 60th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index, 30 places lower than in 2021.
This is Ghana’s worst ranking in nearly 20 years.
In response, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Information Minister, pledged to keep promoting press freedom and journalists’ safety.