Ghana’s Ranking on World Press Freedom Index

Ghana’s 65th Independence & Media's role in democratic journey. Press freedom
Line of camers at an interview

By Dr.Nana Sifa Twum, Media and Communication Consultant.

One of the trending stories in Ghana over the past few days is the country’s drop in the famous World Press Freedom Index ranking from 30 places to 60th in 2022. The development has got all stakeholders and duty bearers in the media landscape in the country, particularly the Government and the Media giving varied reactions to the ranking. It is noted that the ranking, conducted by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), is Ghana’s third worst since the first Index was conducted in 2002. In the very first index, Ghana was placed 67th, coming up to 48th the following year and dropping to 57th and 66th in 2004 and 2005. Ghana‘s best ranking in this index was in 2015 when it came up to 22nd and first in Africa. Since then, the nation’s ranking has been in the range of 26 and 30 and suddenly to 60. The question, therefore, has been what went wrong? The Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders and it is based on the organization’s assessment of the press freedom records of countries in the previous year. It intends to reflect the degree of freedom that journalists and news organizations, have in each country, and the efforts made by authorities to respect this freedom. In summary, it covers five new indicators now used to compile the World Press Freedom Index, namely the political context, legal framework, economic, sociocultural and security contexts.

What is woefully missing as part of the criterion is the quality of journalism in surveyed countries. Quality of journalism is measured both by how much a work engages its audience and enlightens it. This means journalists must continually ask what information has the most value to citizens and in what form people are most likely to assimilate it. With the quality of journalism, one would think of how do we distinguish between an average news story and an enthralling news piece? How knowledgeable is the journalist on the subject matter he is engaged in? How does he apply his professional investigative skills? How effectively and efficiently does the journalist communicate to society? What is the level of the confidence of the journalist in the dissemination of the information without fear or favour? Is the journalist applying the code of ethics in his profession? All these, coming under the quality of journalism contribute immensely towards the holistic criterion of rating a nation concerning press freedom ranking. This is because the quality or otherwise of the journalism piece is highly a factor to create issues, unfortunate or again, otherwise for the journalist and the entire nation, thereby having a negative effect on the ranking. For example, according to Reporters Without Borders, the safety of journalists in the country has, to a large extent, deteriorated in recent years. What caused this? We are not in any way supporting mindless people who go out for journalists they do not agree with. No, but some may argue, if the journalists would work professionally and produce quality news, harassment and molestation of any sort would not occur. Why is freedom of the media so important? Simply put, you can not have much of a democracy without a free press. That is because democracy’s strength rests in the hands of the people, meaning they have to be knowledgeable and informed to make the right decisions when they go to vote. A country’s press freedom depends largely on the kind of news outlets and other publications, produced freely without intimidation and direction from anywhere. In modern history, a shared understanding of the principle of a free press was outlined by the United Nations in 1948. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights codifies it along with the right of free speech. Does this sound good, by way of reasoning, that EU nations account for a large proportion of the top 10, with Costa Rica scoring eight.

The work of journalists all over the world is considered one of the most dangerous among other known professions. This is primarily because the journalists owe it as a commitment to duty to expose evil doings in the society among other functions. By so doing they incur the undue displeasure of the evil doers, especially people of influence and power who have skeletons in their cupboards or would want the journalist to tow a particular direction. As a result, they are unduly attacked, molested and in some cases killed for delivering their services to society. Many journalists have been hated and killed for performing their roles as committed and dedicated members of society. Besides, an unusually high proportion of journalists are killed in relation to their work as they cross borders to cover conflict and dangerous situations in conflict zones and in some cases within their own backyard. They are molested, humiliated, banished, abused and in other cases killed by the powers that be with high impudence. Can all these influence our Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom ranking?

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