Our Greatest barrier to press freedom remains poverty – Oppong-Nkrumah

Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah
Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah

Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah, inister of Information, has observed that the low economic disposition of the media landscape in the country is the greatest impediment to press freedom.

He said although festering, the negative economies of the nation’s media industry had been hushed while industry players wasted away silently in national sacrifice, and therefore the situation must be exposed and addressed.

The Minister made the call while delivering the keynote address at the opening of a three-day training for judges on press freedom and journalistic safety on Monday.

Mr Oppong-Nkrumah noted that the economic dilemma was getting grounded while the country seemed to lack focus on securing safety and security of the media.

“Contrary to initial reports that Ghana had dropped 100 points exclusively because of an increase in infringements on the safety of journalists, a recent stakeholder meeting of the industry players outlined above observed that while it is important to urgently address the matter of safety of journalists, the new methodology adopted by the RSF says our biggest problem in press freedom in Ghana today, is the poor economic status of journalists and media houses.

“According to the five (5) parameters assessed under the new methodology, Ghana scored appreciably high in the following: Legal Framework (81.42%) and Socio-cultural Context (79.64%). Ghana also recorded above average and moderately high scores for Political Context (66.61%) and Safety of Journalists (62.25%).

“As I mentioned earlier, we are committed to working together with stakeholders to improve our scores in these two areas.

“But the parameter in which Ghana performed its lowest was Economic Context (47.22%). This refers to the economic conditions of journalists on one hand and financial sustainability of media houses. Ghana’s scores under these parameters culminated in an average score of 67.43% and 60th position on the new global ranking,” he stated.

The Minister used the occasion to appeal to media practitioners to consider deliberate efforts towards economic transformation of space, as that played extensively on the nation’s social reputation.

“What this suggests to us is that as stakeholders, while dealing with issues of safety, we need to do more to improve the economic conditions of our media practitioners and to improve the financial sustainability of media houses.

“I know my colleagues in the media do not like to talk about our internal difficulties in our organizations. But I assure you if we play ostrich with this, which the RSF says is our biggest problem, not making us free enough to deliver on our mandate, our scores on these indices and the consequent rankings on this new methodology will not see significant change,” he said

Media owners were also charged to consider increasing revenue to better sustain the sacrifices of practitioners.

“Media owners may have to consider program syndications to increase market share and consequently revenue command while ensuring that these revenues percolate down to the journalist who does the hardwork on the ground at the end of the day,” he said.

The training is a UNESCO initiative towards the sustenance of press freedom and is being supported by the Japanese Government.

A total of 25 judges are benefiting from the session in Ho, and which has seasoned resource persons to facilitate several subject areas.

Mr Abdourahamane Diallo, UNESCO Country Representative, said the training, which is in collaboration with the Judicial Training Institute, would help meet the United Nation’s objectives towards the media environment.

“By reinforcing the knowledge and capacities of the judiciary, it will contribute to the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity adopted by the UN Chief Executives Board in 2020,” he said.

More than 18,000 operators in the judicial and civil society fields have been trained across the globally through the initiative since inception in 2013.

An MOU has been solidified between UNESCO and the regional courts including the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and ECOWAS Court of Justice on the subject matter, and which judges would be acquainted during the training.

UNESCO has also developed needed resources such as a global toolkit on international legal standards pertaining to press freedom for judicial actors, a guideline for prosecutors on cases of crime against journalists, and an Oxford collaborated open online course on international standards on freedom of expression.

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