Journalists asked to be responsible, ethical to avoid legal challenges

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Journalists
Journalists

Professor Kwame Karikari, former Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa, has advised journalists and media practitioners to be responsible, ethical, and professional to avoid legal challenges.  

He said those who set out to practice journalism must be professional by exuding competence in the performance of their roles of providing information, ensuring that the public had a say in public discourses, and serving as watch dogs over institutions of State and individuals in the performance of their duties in the public interest.

The journalist, he said, had a responsibility to perform in the interest of public good through the provision of news and information that affected the society and the provision of platforms for the expression of opinions.

However, he noted that, in the performance of such responsibilities, journalists were obliged to do so in accordance with set rules of engagements and conducts, entailing the observance of ethical norms, technical competence and literacy attainment.

Professor Karikari was speaking with other panel members at round table discussion organised CitiTV in collaboration with the National Media Commission on “Exploring the Boundaries of Freedom of Speech – the Professional, Ethical and Legal Dimensions.”

He stressed that there was too much illiteracy in the media space with too many journalists who did not communicate information that was edifying, reliable, verified and researched and presented in an organised manner for the public.

Prof Karikari, also a renowned Journalist and Mass Communication Professor, said journalists must strive to constantly be on top of their crafts by being truthful and objective with the ability to distinguish between facts from opinions, while ensuring independence in their editorial decision processes devoid of political and subjective interests.

“Journalism is not supposed to serve particular sectional partisan interest. Journalists, principally, must not be partisan or sectarian. Journalism must serve the public interest,” he said.

Mr Ace Anan Ankomah, Legal Practitioner, speaking on the boundaries of free speech from the legal dimension, said despite the repeal of the Criminal Libel in 2001, there were still 40 other ways by, which one’s freedom of speech could lead to legal challenges.

He said the constitution provided that all persons shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which included the freedom of the press and other media, freedom of thought, conscience, belief, which shall include academic freedom, adding that despite the constitutional guarantee, there were some limitations.

 

Mr Ankomah said though Chapter 12 of the Constitution in its entirety was devoted to guaranteeing media freedoms, there were no absolute rights as such rights were subject to limitations, with some civil and criminal consequences.

He emphasised that not all speech and expression had been decriminalised, and that what was expressed in speech, writing, conduct, including “singing” could be criminal.

Mr George Sarpong, Executive Secretary, National Media Commission, who spoke on the ethical dimensions of freedom of speech, said ethics boarded on philosophical and moral issues, explaining that ethics was simply “an honest search for the truth and courageous telling of the truth honestly.”

He said Article 164 of the Constitution set the legal boundaries and provided a framework on ethics, which reasonably required journalists to uphold ethics in the interest of national security, public order, and public morality and for the purpose of protecting the rights and reputation of others.

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