By Nicholas Osei-Wusu
The United States Embassy in Ghana has highly commended the Ghana Journalists Association for being assertive and standing up to politicians who attack media practitioners in the line of duty.
According to the Embassy, for democracy to gain roots anywhere in the world, including the United States, where the practice is considered strong, an attack on any of its pillars, such as the media, which promotes freedom of expression and accountability, could lead to undesirable consequences.
Therefore, attacks on the media in any form or shape should not be allowed to fester.
The Press Attache of the Embassy, Kevin Brosnahan, made the point at a capacity-building workshop for selected journalists at Fumesua in the Ejisu Municipality of the Ashanti region.
“Ghana has had its own challenges with high-profile attacks as part of election processes. And I was proud to see GJA calling for accountability for those journalists who were attacked. This is a great example of a democratic institution like GJA protecting the democratic process. So thank you, GJA,” Mr. Brosnahan said.
The Fumesua training programme was the 3rd in a series of such training programmes for journalists in the country this year as part of measures to improve the participants’ professional competencies in election reporting towards peaceful and violence-free Presidential and Parliamentary polls in Ghana this year.
Selected journalists from the Ashanti, Bono Bono East, and Ahafo regions constituting Zone Three participated in the one-day event.
The training was organised by the Ghana Journalists Association, GJA, under its ‘Journalists for Peaceful Discourse’ project being funded by the U.S. Embassy in Ghana.
There were resource persons from the Language and Communications Science Department of the KNUST, Electoral Commission and the Ghana Police Service, as well as the Electoral Commission, who took the participants through topics such as ‘Facts Checking to Counter Dis-and Misinformation in Election Reporting, and ‘The Police, Media and Election Coverage’, “Elections Coverage, What the media must know”.
The President of the GJA, Albert Dwumfuor, used the opportunity to explain that the recent blackouts the Association declared against some politicians for allegedly attacking journalists in their line of duty were the last resort after various measures had failed to produce the desired responses from state actors.
He assured journalists that, in the coming days, the GJA will escalate the measures and that it will not compromise on its resolve to prioritise the welfare, safety and protection of media practitioners in the country as Ghana enters an electioneering period.
According to the GJA President, all the attacks under consideration were duly reported to the Ghana Police Service for the law to take its due process, after which follow-ups with direct contacts with the Inspector General of Police were made for expedited action, but not even an official acknowledgement had been received from the Police.
Mr. Dwumfuor therefore condemned outrightly persons, especially those whose duty it is to protect the media from interference and abuse, to rather attack the Association for its new approach to protect media practitioners in the country.
The GJA President, however, charged journalists to always balance media freedom with responsibility.
“The GJA believes that freedom of expression does not only mean allowing people to speak but also ensuring responsibility, knowing that there is the need to protect the very space in which we operate,” Mr. Dwumfuor cautioned.
The Chairman of the National Media Commission, Yaw Boadu Ayeboafo, questioned the rationale behind certain emerging issues in the run-up to this year’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections, including the timing of some of the proposals.
The NMC Chairman, who is also a lawyer, noted, “apart from Scripture quoting Jesus Christ as having said that man was not made for Sabbath but the Sabbath was made for man, Ghana is a secular country, and there have been instances that the court has ruled against the church that their children at the universities must not be made to write examinations on Saturdays.”
Participants at the training programme were unanimous that it has come at the right time to enable the media to discharge their constitutional duties to the country in an election year.
“It has enhanced my knowledge that, I’m leaving, I’m going to perform very well by reporting and also contribute to the success of the 2024 elections,” Christiana Kumah from Bono East said.
The Ashanti Regional Editor of Media General, Evans Nkum, also said, “I must say that we’ve learnt a lot, at least ethics and sensitive areas where we can also collaborate even as we report on the field.”
“I want to say thank you GJA national Executives. They’ve done very, very well. Also, I’ve had the assurance now that the National Executives are actually behind us and they’re fighting for us. So now when I’m going out to work, I know how to protect myself,” Regina Bene-Siaw from the Bono region stressed.
The Project Lead of the ‘Journalists for Peaceful Discourse’, Rebecca Ekpe, briefing the participants through what the project entails disclosed that media practitioners who perform exceptionally on the electioneering this year could benefit more from the initiative.