Assault on a journalist by presidential staffer, Mr Stan Dogbe, murder of radio broadcaster George Abanga and the absence of Right to Information Law are among key factors that have led to Ghana’s drop in the latest global world press freedom ranking by the US-based Freedom House.
In a statement, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) notes that for ten years now Ghana has remained one of two or three countries on the African continent rated as having a free press freedom environment. This ranking has always reflected extremely positively on Ghana’s reputation in the global community as far as press freedom is concerned.
But in its recently released ranking for 2015, Ghana has been downgraded from “Free” to “Partly Free”. In a report that extensively cites MFWA’s work, Freedom House notes that Ghana’s decline in ranking is as a result of “stepped-up attempts to limit coverage of news events and confiscation of equipment; increases in violence directed at journalists by the police, the military, political party members, and ordinary citizens.”
Other reasons for the decline, according to the report, are violations against journalists that went unpunished by the state; inaction by the President on a petition by 155 journalists on the attack by his staffer on a journalist; and attacks on journalists by political party activists and security forces.
The report also cited “censorship attempts” through a Content Authorisation Law by the National Media Commission; and directive of the Information Services Department (ISD) requiring journalists working with foreign media organisations to seek approval from ISD before filming and after filming, submission to the ISD for approval before broadcast. Also cited is the power crisis that had a heavy toll on media businesses in the country.
This decline in press freedom ranking comes after MFWA had warned about increasing incidents of press freedom violations and the possibility of such trends affecting the country’s ranking.
The MFWA urges the government, security agencies and political parties to act in ways that fosters press freedom and protects press freedom. The MFWA wishes to also remind President Mahama about the petition submitted by the Foundation and 155 journalists to which he has since not acted on. We also call on journalists to adhere to professional standards and safety principles in the discharge of their duties.