Afrobarometer survey data released by the Center for Democratic Development (CDD) on press freedom in Ghana has revealed that popular support for a free media has dropped sharply.
According to the report, majority of citizens are of the view that government should have the right to prevent the media from publishing things that it considers harmful to society.
This, according to CDD is a reversal of attitudes during previous survey rounds between 2005 and 2014, in which a majority of Ghanaians consistently endorsed media freedom from government interference.
Different sociodemographic groups show only modest differences in support for media freedom.
The survey findings also show that a majority of citizens say they trust information from the media, but many also see at least some members of the media as corrupt.
Members of the media, however, fare considerably better than the police, judges, elected leaders, and traditional leaders when it comes to Ghanaians’ perceptions of corruption.
Comparing responses across 21 countries sampled in Afrobarometer’s most recent survey round, Ghana scores well below average in terms of supporting media freedom, a sharp contrast with Ghana’s No. 23 ranking (No. 1 among African countries) on the 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
Also the report revealed that the Media Foundation for West Africa cites declining popular support for journalists – due in part to perceptions of fallen ethical standards and corruption – as a prime reason behind violent attacks on journalists, often by security personnel or police and generally unpunished.
Key findings in the report revealed that Around six in 62% of every 10 Ghanaians interviewed say the media has more freedom than a few years ago to investigate and criticize government actions, but only about one in three which forms 36% support full media freedom and a majority 57% believe that the government should have the right to prevent the publication of information it deems that may be deemed harmful to society.
“There has been a sharp drop in support for media freedom, from 55% in 2005 to 36% in Urban and rural residents hold almost identical views on media freedom, as do different age groups. Men are slightly more likely than women to support a free media 39% vs. 34%, and respondents with no formal education are less supportive of media freedom (30%) than their better-educated counterparts,” the report stated.
The report also said Wealthy respondents tend to support government control as 57% and 59% among those with no or low lived poverty than poor respondents.
The Survey findings also show that most Ghanaians rely on radio and television for their news, though social media and the Internet are growing in importance as news sources, especially among young and well-educated citizens.
Majority of the citizens say they trust information from the media, but many also see at least some members of the media as corrupt.
According to the Regional Communications Coordinator for Anglophone West Africa at Afrobarometer, Josephine Appiah-Nyamekye over the report at the CDD office yesterday, they averred that Ghana’s vibrant media has played an important role in the country’s democratization.
Speaking during a panel discussion, Josephine Appiah-Nyamekye said from its strong advocacy during the country’s struggles for independence and democratic rule to its current watchdog role for society, the Ghanaian media has continually set the agenda on matters of critical importance, sustained the discourse, and effected change.
This, she said has earned Ghana a reputation as one of the most media-friendly countries in the world, rising steadily on the World Press Freedom Index from 67th in 2002 to 23rd in 2018, from 19th among African countries to No. 1 (Reporters Without Borders, 2002; 2018).
This success has relied on constitutional provisions for a free and independent press, including laws against censorship, government interference, and harassment (Constitution of Ghana, 1992).
These provisions have not always protected the media, however, “A libel and sedition law allowed authorities to intimidate and criminalize the media until its repeal in 2001 (Ampomah, 2011), and Ghana’s Criminal Code still contains remnants of restrictive laws from the era of authoritarian rule that limit media freedom (Akufo-Addo, 2011),” she said.
Story by Prosper Agbenyega