Madam Nicole Chulick, the Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy, has called on government and other stakeholders, including the public, to ensure that the media has freedom to operate independently.
She said it was only a safe, free, professional and responsible media that could support democratic principles and inform current public policy debates to enable voters make informed decisions.
“Journalists shed light on both the positive and negative aspects of public policy and contribute to accountable governance and without a free press, few democracies can survive and Ghana is no exception,” he said.
Madam Chulick made the call at the observation of the 2022 World Press Freedom Day in Accra by the Ghana Journalists
Association (GJA) and UNESCO, on the theme: “Journalism under Digital Siege. ”
The call came after Ghana dropped from its 30th ranking in the Global Press Freedom Index by the Reporters without Border to 60th in 2022.
She said: “You, as Journalists, have a critically important role to play. Who else can help the public understand, discuss, and assess public policies? Who else can help the public hold government accountable for its policies?
“Journalists need to have the space to report legitimately sourced information without intimidation or harassment.”
Madam Chulick said the US was a proud supporter of press freedom thus partnering the GJA to advocate press freedom and protection of Journalists.
“There are many Ghanaian Journalists working to fight corruption, holding government accountable, and calling out abuse and injustice. This often comes at a great personal risk. We have seen multiple arrests of Journalists in Ghana for their reporting… Of course the government has a role to play in protecting public safety,” he stated.
Madam Chulick reminded Journalists of their responsibility to guard against misinformation and disinformation, adding that it was better to publish late and accurately than first and falsely.
She bemoaned the lack of development on the murderers of investigative Journalist, Ahmed Hussein-Suale, saying, “Its been more than three years, the case has not been solved and his murderers are free.”
Mr Affail Monney, the President, GJA, said dropping in ranking had been anticipated due to a confluence of anti-media factors, however, he said the Association did not expect the drop to be so “precipitous” – fall from third to 10th in Africa, and 30th to 60th worldide, a 100 per cent decline.
“We watched with shudder and heard with shiver, merciless arrests and reckless attacks and animalistic disregard for the rights of a number of journalists in the line of duty.
“The deterministic outcome has been as sharp deterioration of the safety of journalists. Death threats rained on investigative journalists also went uninvestigated, let alone punished, while law enforcement officers who were supposed to protect journalists rather brutalised them,” he noted.
Mr Monney noted that three years on, the assassination of Ahmed Suale in the most heinous of circumstances had been a stain of Ghana’s reputation as a land of freedom and justice, a citadel of media freedom and a beacon of democratic accomplishment in Africa.
“Assurance upon assurance of arresting the perpetrators have remained a hollow rhetoric,” he added.
The GJA President said nonetheless, the global index still recognised Ghana as a regional pillar of democratic stability.
The drive for resurgence of the media, he said, called for a clear, radical and resolute stance to deal surgically with the cancerous spread of impunity.
He explained that impunity ignited a self- propelling and re- energising cycle, which became hellishly difficult to defeat, if not tackled from the root through application of the law fairly and squarely, to all offenders, at all times, regardless of their partisan stripes, material wealth or social standing.
Mr Monney who bemoaned the long ‘incubation’ of the Broadcasting Bill designed to address the lingering challenges on the airwaves, said it was also crucial to orchestrate a conversation to take a hard look at the ownership structure of the media.
That was because ownership controlled the media, to the extent of dictating content to the professionals they employed, he said, adding: “We dare say that this issue poses the greatest threat to media freedom in modern memory.”
Mr Monney said it was also time to consider the poor conditions of service of Journalists.
“The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) bluntly puts it that there can be no press freedom if journalists exist in conditions of corruption, poverty or fear,” he said.
“In the face of the cost of living challenges, the time has come, more than ever before, to address the flip -flop poverty in the media,” Mr Monney stated.