Ghana must establish a comprehensive framework to effectively regulate the media, and also tackle the issue of freedom of speech and expression, the Executive Secretary of the National Media Commission (NMC), Mr George Sarpong, has said.
According to MrSarpong most of the laws on freedom of speech and expression were mostly misapplied and this created a problem in addressing such issues.
“Understanding freedom of expression and legalities is like a tight rope. When you miss a step, you are down,”MrSarpong said.
“The only reason we are where we are is that there is lack of a comprehensive framework for regulating the media and when there is a problem those in power rush to find solution,” he added.
He made these assertions during a discussion at a forum organised by the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) yesterday on the theme “Re-examining media freedom, ethics, and threats to the safety of journalists.”
Mr Sarpong noted that per the provision of the constitution every individual and the press had the freedom of expression, however, it was up to the enforcers of the law to determine what constituted hate speech or not.
He explained that what made freedom of speech and expression by individuals and the press was limited to the time, manner and place where the expression were made.
For this reason, Mr Sarpong entreated enforcers to consider these three elements (time, place and manner) when analysing issues of freedom of speech as well as press freedom before making any prosecution.
The Executive Secretary further professed that individuals and the press’ right to freedom of speech and expression could only be curtailed if it could affect national security, public order, public morality, reputation and right on others.
The Head of Department of Communication Studies at GIJ, DrEboAfful, said that for the freedom of speech and expression to be fully enjoyed by all in the country, the authorities of state and the press had to play vital roles.
He, however, indicated that this had not been achieved as the authorities of state had failed in handling the issue, while the press had also failed to follow the ethical standards of their profession
DrAfful said the use of the state security to arrest and prosecute media practitioners and individuals for what it called “hate speech” was not in the right direction.
He noted that the best way to go was to report those involved in that act to the NMC for them to address the issues.
The Deputy Rector of GIJ, Prof.EricOpokuMensah,in his address commended the institute for coming up with such a forum as the issue of freedom of speech and expression had been a topic of discussion in recent times.
BY BENJAMIN ARCTON-TETTEY