NEWS COMMENTARY ON THE OPENING OF THE COORDINATED MECHANISM ON THE SAFETY OF JOURNALISTS IN GHANA.
The opening of an office for the Coordinated Mechanism on the safety of Journalists in the country by government is fascinating news not only for the Ghanaian journalist but more importantly for the development and sustenance of democracy. The commissioning of the office, which is to be operated by the National Media inaugration and coincided with this year’s World Press Freedom, speaks volumes of Ghana’s efforts in ensuring true press freedom in the country to enable journalists to work assiduously without fear or favour to enhance the nation’s democracy. According to the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, the office is the official source for filing all forms of complaints of attacks on journalists, validating alleged attacks, following up on investigations and sanctions and reporting on the safety of journalists. The Minister needs to be commended for the foresight and initiative for laying a memo on this important framework in Ghana’s quest for press freedom at Cabinet for approval.
The initiative is absolutely laudable because of the rampant attacks on journalists in the country. Due to the nature of journalism, many unscrupulous people develop hatred for journalists, thereby attacking them and in many cases killing them. Every year, tens of journalists around the globe are attacked and killed for doing their work. Last year, for instance, a total of fifty journalists were killed worldwide. This is according to the second part of the annual round-up of abusive treatment and violence against journalists, published by Reporters Without Borders on December 14, 2020. Reporters Without Borders observed that 387 journalists are currently detained in connection with their work. This is virtually the same as a year ago. This means the number of journalists imprisoned worldwide is still at a historically high level. The year 2020 also saw a 35 percent increase in the number of women journalists arbitrarily detained and a fourfold increase in arrests of journalists during the first three months of the Covid-19’s pandemic. Fourteen journalists who were arrested in connection with their coverage of the pandemic are still being held.
The alarming figures are no different in Ghana. Journalism all over the world is considered one of the most dangerous among other known professions. This is primarily due to the fact that journalists owe it a duty to expose evil doings in society. By so doing, they incur the displeasure of the masses, especially people of influence and power who have skeletons in their cupboards. The need for the state to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without fear of interference cannot be overemphasized. Media owners must ensure better and safer environment for their workers as journalists cannot afford to ignore their constitutional mandate of providing society with information to enable checks and balances in all aspects. The cameras must continue to capture the images, and the microphones must continue to pick up the sounds while the pens continue scribbling for the benefit of the masses. These must be done in the interest of society. The absolute end to such impunities and crimes against Journalists in this country is therefore imperative and must therefore seize.
The office for the Coordinated Mechanism on the safety of Journalists under the office of National Media Commission, we are told, shall be the independent operator of the office as part of its efforts to promote journalism. In the words of the Information Minister, “the office was an additional layer aside from many other interventions demonstrating the government’s commitment to Press Freedom and Safety of Journalists.” We are trusting the NMC to use this mechanism to ensure that attacks on journalists are minimised or possibly eliminated.
The government has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that it means well in working towards the welfare and safety of journalists who are the fourth estate of the realm.
BY DR. NANA SIFA TWUM, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT.