‘’As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, it has also given rise to a second pandemic of misinformation, from harmful health advice to wild conspiracy theories. The press provides the antidote: verified, scientific, fact-based news and analysis”.
The above are that of words of the UN Secretary General, António Guterres on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day held across the world on May 3.
He was speaking against the backdrop of the challenges brought about by COVID-19 pandemic including the spread of fake news about almost every human endeavour.
The UN Secretary General used the occasion to draw the world’s attention to the harm disinformation is doing particularly at this time as countries wage war against the deadly scourge.
Indeed, he could not have chosen any better time than a special occasion when global attention is focused on the media as it celebrates the day that was set side every year, May 3, to commemorate the fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluate press freedom around the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
The World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a recommendation adopted at the 26th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.
This was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.
Originally, every May 3 is in a way used to remind governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics.
Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for those who abhor press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.
Although, this year’s day was celebrated in a moderated way, it did not prevent the media and governments from celebrating the day in a manner they deem fit amid COVID-19 crisis.
In Ghana, the Ghana Journalists Association together with other media groups such as the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRIPAG), the Ghana Community Radio Network (GCRN) and the Editors Forum marked the day with a short but impressive ceremony as they fully observed social distancing due to COVID-19 pandemic.
At the heart of their messages was that there are still pockets of violations of press freedom and journalists continue to be attacked and harassed by members of the public and called for support to halt the practice.
While we support the call by the media groups, we wish to remind all that at a time when we are mired in agony and insecurity because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that the media is adequately equipped with accurate information to help all of us face, understand, think about and overcome this crisis.
It is essential at this point for everyone to consider the vital importance of information in this critical period as informing the public means giving everyone the means of combating the illness by adopting appropriate practices.
This is why the Ghanaian Times joins hands with the government in advising media practitioners to avoid fake news in their reportage and stick only to verified information.
On the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day which is under the theme “Journalism without fear”, we salute all journalists and media workers for the positive role they have played since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.