Coalition of Media Organisations urges Pres to uphold press freedom

 A Coalition of Media Organisations has called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to live by his principles on press freedom, and repeal sections of the 1992 Constitution that seek to undermine it.

The group argued that recent incidenc­es of injustices meted out to journalists under his regime smacks of a subtle rein­troduction of the criminal libel law, which was repealed in 2001.

The coalition made reference to the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775) and the Criminal and other Of­fences Act, 1960 (Act 29), which are being “weaponised” in recent times to “muzzle free speech.”

Comprising the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), Private Newspapers Association of Ghana, Ghana Community Radio Network and the Media Foundation of West Africa (MFWA), the coalition at a joint news conference in Ac­cra, yesterday, called for the repeal of both laws to guarantee media freedom.

The president of the GJA, Mr Albert Dwumfour, reading a statement on behalf of the Coalition, cited the recent detention of Noah Nartey Dameh, a journalist with Radio Ada, for seven days, using the laws.

That, Mr Dwumfour noted, was one of many incidences of prosecutions against journalists and civil society activists since 2022, using the Electronic Communica­tions Act and the Criminal Code, specif­ically Section 208 of the Criminal and Other Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29).

“As key stakeholders in the media sector, we are concerned about the use of these laws to arrest citizens and journalists and prefer criminal charges against them for press and speech offences, which are merely defamatory and for which civil remedies are available,” he stated.

Mr Dwumfuor said it was “ironic that a government presided by President Akufo-Addo, who is much vaunted as a human rights and press freedom champi­on, is supervising the surreptitious reintro­duction of criminal libel through the use of the above-mentioned criminal laws.”

He said the posture of the President undercuts his once publicly expressed views on the safety of journalists and press freedom.

The wanton arrests and detention of journalists, according to the GJA presi­dent, continued to contribute to the dras­tic fall of Ghana from the freest media environment in Africa in 2018 to 13th in 2022, on global press freedom index.

“It is obvious that our press freedom environment is deteriorating and that the abuse of the two controversial laws has contributed massively to the deterioration.

“It is our view, therefore, that efforts to bring a positive change should begin with a reconsideration of those laws,” he appealed.

Mr Dwumfour while expressing the commitment to the GJA to promote professional standards in the media, urged journalists to uphold the highest level of integrity and professionalism, to promote a safe media space.

The president of GIBA, Mr Cecil Sunkwa-Mills, called on the government to adequately resource the National Media Commission, to effectively carry out its mandate of monitoring and regulating media content in a proactive manner.

He said “this, we believe will discourage police involvement in the media regulatory space.”

The Executive Director of the MFWA, Mr Sulemana Braimah, reminded the President of his position on press freedom as a presidential candidate as opposed to current happenings under his tenure.

“The President must begin to take actions in line with his convictions as a then presidential candidate and ensure that the media is free to do their work without fear,” he said.


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