Dr. Nana Sifa Twum, Communications Consultant
It has been widely noted that journalists talk about everything under the sun, but generally do not talk about issues affecting them. Hence, some citizens take them for granted and therefore work out so many things, great and small such as molestation, brutalities, and death, against their very survival and progress.
Today, the world led by the United Nations is observing the International Day to End Impunity Against Journalists.
This year’s celebration highlighted the critical role of prosecutorial services in bringing killers to justice and prosecuting threats of violence.
Ending impunity for crimes against journalists is therefore one of the most pressing issues to guarantee freedom of expression and access to information for all citizens. It is noted that between 2006 and 2020, more than 1,200 journalists have been killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public.
Other statistics are not the best. 274 journalists were imprisoned in 2020, the highest yearly total in three decades. It is noted that only 13 percent of cases recorded by UNESCO since 2006 are currently considered judicially resolved. 73 percent of women journalists surveyed had experienced online violence in the course of their work. Ghana undoubtedly has its fair share of journalists’ brutalities and killings.
Sadly, in nine out of ten cases the killers go unpunished, according to the UNESCO observatory of killed journalists. Impunity leads to more killings and is often a symptom of worsening conflict and the breakdown of law and judicial systems.
In his message marking the day, celebrated today, 2nd November, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres noted protecting journalists is also part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He said the plan has also contributed to building international coalitions of governments and civil society and served to bring about changes on the ground, such as the creation of national safety mechanisms in at least 50 countries.
Ghana, over the years, has witnessed sophisticated atrocity against journalists plying their trade here in Ghana. The last time it was, perhaps what could be best described as the unwarranted, shameful, coward, barbaric and gruesome assassination of one of its promising and well-endowed journalist, Ahmed Hussein-Suale among others in the past. Other forms of abuse and molestation of Ghanaian journalists are uncountable.
Non-fatal attacks, such as torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, intimidation, harassment, and such specific risks faced by women journalists in particular, including sexual attacks and unfair treatment, could just be said to be on the sidelines.
In the recent past, the media in Ghana has unduly suffered very harsh brutalities from all quarters thus making impunity so paramount and dangerous. It is also alarming and worrying.
The silliest and ironic is the molestation of the journalists by the members of the security agencies. They are supposed to shield, defend, protect, and provide security to journalists when they face danger while on duty. Rather unfortunately, the police have, with huge impunity, joined the shameful wagon a couple of times, beating the members of the media more severely than others.
The main event to celebrate this year’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists is a High-Level Multi-Stakeholder Conference on the Safety of Journalists with the theme, “ Protecting Media to Protect Democracy” in Vienna Austria.
The theme is relevant in the era of democracy in relation to the functions of the media, especially in Ghana. The media in Ghana has worked so hard to protect democracy and for the first time, the nation has experienced two decades of continuous democracy.
The media’s bid to support and protect democracy has been a phenomenon. Protecting the media to protect our democracy must be on the agenda for all stakeholders. Protecting democracy does not only promote such fundamental national values, but also helps to create a more secure, stable, and prosperous national arena in which the country can advance its national interests.
The purpose of journalism is not to hurt but at the same time, it hurts antisocial beings. Importantly it is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.
Efforts by criminals to commit such atrocious needs to journalists with the aim of making them chicken out must be rethought, for Journalism can never be silent, that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault.