On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) which is being observed today (May 3) around the world, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is challenging the media in West Africa to focus on promoting transparency and accountability in governance.
One of the biggest challenges confronting development and governance in West Africa remains corruption, lack of transparency and accountability in nearly all sectors of society. The spate of corruption, lack of transparency and accountability can also be said to be linked to the challenge of bad governance which then gives rise to the other numerous challenges facing the region, including challenges to press freedom.
A major requirement for ensuring transparency and accountability in governance in society as a whole, is the empowerment of the citizenry to be able to seek and receive information on how their national resources are being managed by the people they elect to manage such resources.
In a transparent and accountable governance environment, citizens ought to have the legal right to access information on how their tax monies are spent, how their natural resources are being utilised, who is benefiting from state contracts and under what terms, among other conditions.
As the fourth estate of the realm and as the agenda-setters, the media have the power to help improve transparency and accountability in governance by advocating for citizens’ right to access information. This also means that the media must be strong advocates for the passage of laws that guarantee citizens’ right to information and the effective implementation of such laws.
The MFWA thus, finds the theme for this year’s WPFD celebrations, “Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms: This Is Your Right!” as the right theme, dealing with the most important issue and at the right time.
We are gladdened by the fact that so far a number of West African countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso and Guinea have all passed a law that guarantees their citizenry the right to seek and receive information of their choice and not just information that government is willing to give out.
At the same time, we are saddened by the fact that countries like Ghana, Senegal and others continue to deny their citizenry the most basic democratic right – the right to information. In the case of Ghana for example, the current government and previous ones have for the last 13 years failed to heed to the cry of the citizenry to grant them their right to information by passing a law guaranteeing such right.
As Ghana goes into elections in November, we call on the media in Ghana to help make transparency and accountability the focus of the election and demanding of the government and the opposition to demonstrate their commitment to transparent and accountable governance by passing the right to information legislation that will empower the citizenry to hold their elected official accountable.
The MFWA and its national partners across West Africa celebrate all the media and journalists.