Ghana’s President, John Dramani Mahama, has highlighted the strong link between press freedom and development, and the important role of the media in ensuring the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In his message delivered at Helsinki, Finland, where the global event to mark 2016 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) was held, President Mahama who is also the Co-Chair of the UN Advocacy Group on SDGs, acknowledged the role of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and other organisations in championing the inclusion of Goal 16 in the SDGs.
Goal 16 of the SDGs enjoins all member states to ensure public access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.
On the role of the media in promoting the successful implementation of the SDGs, President Mahama observed that: “the media is central to raising awareness and providing a better understanding of the SDGs and the future we want for ourselves and our children’s children.”
The President’s message to the global gathering also made the following references to MFWA’s recent reports on internet freedom and press freedom violations across West Africa:
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) recently put out a statement in which it “is urging stakeholders in all 16 West African countries to resist all attempts by governments and regulators to limit freedom of expression online or control internet use.” In its own words, “The MFWA’s call follows findings from an internet rights monitoring exercise conducted by the Foundation from October – December 2015.”
The findings, according to the Foundation, revealed that in the last quarter of 2015, two major countries in the sub-region “passed and introduced bills that have potential for curtailing free expression online.” In an even more recent statement, the Foundation said: “A total of 142 incidents of free expression violations were recorded across West Africa in 2015. Almost 90 percent of the incidents were violations against journalists and media organisations, a development that further highlights the important issue of safety of journalists in the region. The press freedom violations were predominantly in the form of arrests, attacks, threats, suspensions and censorships among others.” It is within these kinds of environments that Goal 16 has to dribble and score.
The MFWA welcomes the positive message from the President on freedom of expression and urges him to champion the passage of Ghana’s Right to Information law to further consolidate free expression and participatory democracy in Ghana.