MFWA Petitions Government of Ghana Over Hostile Guidelines On Filming By Foreign Media Correspondents

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has petitioned Ghana’s Ministry of Communication over guidelines by its Information Services Department (ISD), that MFWA considers an affront on free expression.
The said guidelines, posted on the notice board of the ISD, require correspondents of foreign media on filming assignments in Ghana:
  • To be accompanied by officials of the Information Services Department to ensure that they operate within laid down regulations
  • To forward a copy of their final production to the ISD through their respective missions before the film could be aired publicly.
The MFWA finds this directive by the ISD quite absurd and an act of direct media censorship that makes a mockery of Ghana’s status as one of the most progressive countries when it comes to media freedom.
Reminding the Ministry that the country’s laws frown on censorship, the petition quoted Article 162(2) of Ghana’s 1992 constitution, where it is clearly stated that: “Subject to this constitution and any other law not inconsistent with this constitution, there shall be no censorship in Ghana.”
The MFWA petition expressed surprise that in this day and age, journalists will be required to submit their work to a state body for pre-screening. This, it noted, is a practice common in repressive regimes and under dictatorships.
Calling the policy a dark spot on Ghana’s press freedom record, the petition called on the sector minister to take steps to scrap it.
Kindly read the full petition below.
The Honourable Minister,
Ministry of Communication
Ministries, Accra
August 10, 2015
Dear Sir,
PETITION: FILMING ASSIGNMENT BY FOREIGN MEDIA CORRESPONDENTS TO GHANA
Our attention has been drawn to a notice by the Information Services Department (ISD), on guidelines for filming assignments by correspondents of foreign media organisations.
The said guidelines require among other things that film production crew that visit Ghana:
  • Should be accompanied by officials of the Information Services Department to ensure that they operate within laid down regulations
  • Would be obliged to forward a copy of their final production to the ISD through their respective missions before the film could be aired publicly.
We find this directive by the ISD quite absurd and an act of direct media censorship that makes a mockery of Ghana’s status as one of the most progressive countries when it comes to media freedom.
Media practitioners for local or foreign media organisations should not be subjected to different conditions for news gathering and usage, so long as they operate within the confines of appropriate laws regulating the industry. We are surprised that in this day and age, journalists will be required to submit their work to a state body for pre-screening. This is a practice common in repressive regimes and under dictatorships.
We note that the ISD notice refers to “laid down regulations” which its guidelines are apparently seeking to enforce. If such regulations exist, we urge the ISD to make them public.
Ghana’s 1992 constitution frowns on censorship and makes that clear in Art 162(2) where it states: “Subject to this constitution and any other law not inconsistent with this constitution, there shall be no censorship in Ghana.”
The prohibition of censorship as spelt out in the constitution is not limited to local journalists working for the local media. Editors of media organisations – foreign or local – have the prerogative to decide the content to be broadcast or published by their organisations and they should not be subjected to any form of controls by state or non-state actors.
We therefore call on you to take the necessary actions to scrap this obnoxious policy which is a dark spot on Ghana’s press freedom record.
We count on your usual co-operation.
Yours Sincerely,
SULEMANA BRAIMAH
(EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR)
Cc:The Chairman, National Media Commission
        The Director, Information Services Department

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