The Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) yesterday organised a forum on freedom of speech on the theme “Re-Examining media freedom, ethics, and threats to the safety of journalists.”
The theme of the forum suggested that speakers were going to dilate on the sub-themes in a way that would bring some good understanding to GIJ students.
This was particularly important because issues falling under the subthemes are affected, among other factors, by laws, the ideology of the political establishment and the behaviour of the journalists themselves.
That meant that there was the need for those whose understand the issues and also could visualize how they could be handled now and in the future.
Thus the Executive Secretary of the National Media Commission (NMC), Mr George Sarpong, was given the opportunity to give a perspective.
His assertions that there was the need for the establishment of a comprehensive framework to effectively regulate the media and also tackle the issue of freedom of speech and expression;and that the laws on freedom of speech and expression were mostly misapplied are issues that must be taken seriously.
Just as MrSarpong did not give practical examples for obvious reasons, the Ghanaian Times would not do so either but wishes to call on journalists in particular to be particular about their responsibilities in imbibing the journalistic ethics, having an appreciable knowledge of media law and taking a stand to be professional all the time.
These days, there are a lot of people who are operating on the media landscape as journalists but are not because they do not have the requisite training.
What is worse is that there are others like the so-called political communicators who bad-mouth their opponents, including even political leaders such as presidents without considering the calibre of persons they are rubbishing.
True journalists must not be encouraged by these dimwits who would not even agree to withdraw demeaning and defaming remarks.
Journalists would hardly incur the displeasure of others even when they forget all the ethics and media law but are analytical in their speech and writings.
One important thing too is that the journalist should not allow himself or herself to be influenced by politicians and other people in high places to push them into flouting the responsibilities regarding free speech.
Another is that these people can make or unmake you, so what is important is to be analytic and apply wisdom.
This is because when it comes to a crunch and those you thought would come to your aid do not show up, you the journalist is left to your fate.
It should, therefore, be noted that when it comes to the safety of the journalist, the journalist himself or herself plays a huge role in that respect.
In all the circumstances, MrSarpong’s suggestion for the establishment of a comprehensive framework to effectively regulate the media and also tackle the issue of freedom of speech and expression must be the conversation henceforth among the Ghana Journalists Association, the NMC, the government and other stakeholders.
Such framework should, among other issues, set the frontiers of hate speech in particular.
Concerning the laws on freedom of speech and expression and their purported misapplication, these are issues for the experts, including the judiciary,as well as the government and the police.
The police are referred to here because most of the time, they are the ones accused of being used by the political elite to chase their targets.
It is the hope of the Ghanaian Times that Ghanaian journalists in particular and journalists in general would enjoy the necessary freedom and safety, while they too show responsibility in their work.
This is important because as members of the fourth estate of the realm, journalists are needed to play their liaison role of informing and educating the public about such important national issues like governance and as well being a link for demanding accountability from the government.