Safeguard free speech against abuse – Prof. Abotsi

The Dean of the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) Law School, Prof. Ernest Kofi Abotsi, has asked Ghanaians to collectively safeguard free speech to ensure that it is not abused.

He asked all and sundry to be and remain citizens and not spectators by participating efficiently in the processes of protecting free speech which subsequently allows for freedom of the press and not leave the responsibility for the government alone.

Free speech is the right to express any opinion without censorship or restraint.

Prof. Abotsi said this in a keynote address at the commemoration of this year’s United Nations (UN) International Day of Democracy and the inauguration of executives of the UN Association of Ghana (UNA-GH) held under the theme “Protecting Press Freedom for Democracy” in Accra over the weekend.

Noting that free speech was the biggest product of democracy, he indicated that not regulating free speech properly and striking out a definite balance between what free speech was or was not could lead to self-censorships and growth in vigilantism.

“Generally good, but free speech not regulated properly and balanced could be disastrous,” he added. 

Prof. Abotsi emphasised that the act of press freedom was grounded in free speech, for which reason we were all to be mindful of what we said.

“Free speech is not the same as respectful, productful or dignified speech. Individuals should have respect for others right to speak while institutions should also be empowered,” he added.

The Member of Parliament (MP) for Madina Constituency, Francis-Xavier Sosu, stated that freedom of expression was a universal human right and not the prerogative of the politician or a privilege of the journalist.

“In their day-to-day work, journalists are simply exercising every citizen’s right to free speech. A free press is fundamental to a democratic society. It seeks out and circulates news, information, ideas, comment and opinion and holds those in authority to account,” he added.

Mr Sosu underscored that the future of democracy and democratic governance depended on our ability to develop a new African Democratic Identity that dealt with complex social challenges, particularly poverty, deprivation and stagnation.

Bishop Peter Kojo Sackey, National President, UNA-GH, opined that abuses against journalists should stop to foster an atmosphere of freedom of expression.

“The media must also operate within the ambit of the law and the Code of Ethics and Guidelines of media regulators such as the Ghana Journalists Association, National Media Commission and the National Communications Authority,” he stated.

“All citizens must use legal processes to address issues they have with the media and not take the law into their hands,” he added.

Bishop Sackey congratulated the executives and urged them to work expediently towards the achievement of the Association’s goals and adding “all those who have a heart to volunteer to join the United Nations Association-Ghana so that together, we will mobilise over a million volunteers for the United Nations.”

The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) President, Mr Albert Kwabena Dwumfuor, said the GJA would collaborate with the UNA-GH to support press freedom in the country “so that our journalists would inform, reform and transform our communities through the path of a functioning democracy”.


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