Jailed Egyptian photojournalist, Mahmoud Abu Zeid Shawkan , was Wednesday night awarded in absentia this year’s UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize at a ceremony held here.
The award ceremony which was attended by Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was one of the high points of this year’s World Press Freedom Day hosted by Ghana.
Shawkan’s award, a certificate and 25,000 US Dollars presented by Getachew Engida Deputy Director General of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was in recognition of his persistence in the fight for free expression.
The Egyptian journalist was arrested while covering a demonstration at the Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square in Cairo and has been in jail since August 14 2013.
“The choice of Mahmoud Abu Zeid Shawkan pays tribute to his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression,” President of the Jury Maria Ressa, said in recorded video message played at the ceremony.
Ghanaian President, Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo reiterated the resolve of Ghanaians to defend the right to free expression to the very end, because of their determination to build a free and open society with accountable governance as enshrined in the 1992 constitution.
“That is why, as Attorney General, under the government of His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor, the second President of the fourth Republic, I led the process, in Parliament, for the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law,” the president maintained.
The repeal, which took place on 27th July, 2001, Akufo-Addo indicated “was a very happy day for me, representing one of the high points of my public career.”
The president observed that the repeal had had a very positive impact on the development of the Ghanaian media, freeing it from unnecessary self-censorship, and promoting a robust and critical media culture.
Head of the Africa Desk for international charity, Reporters Without Borders, Arnaud Eroger told Xinhua the situation of media freedom in sub-Sahara Africa was gradually improving.
“What we noticed in our last Press Freedom Index is that the situation in Sub-Sahara Africa has slightly improved; Improved, mainly due to the fall of three of the worst Press Freedom Predators,” he stated.
Eroger said Ghana came tops in current index for Press Freedom in Africa and 23r in the word, adding that South Africa, Namibia and Burkina Faso ere also part of the top five African countries where the media had high level of freedom.
“These are countries where Press Freedom has its challenges of course, but we don’t have severe assaults on press freedom and we have in these countries pluralism, there are several media outlets,” he explained.
President of the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) Roland Affail Monney also said in an Interview reiterated that Ghana’s shining democracy is greatly aided by the high level of press freedom enjoyed in the country.
In spite of the attacks against some of lo al journalists, Monney argued Ghana was still a beacon of press freedom for which citizens ought to be proud. Enditem