A Deputy Minister of Information, Pius Enam Hadzide, on Tuesday urged the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) to champion professionalism and responsibility among its members as it celebrates the 70th anniversary.
Speaking at the launch of the anniversary in Accra, which was performed by former President John Agyekum Kufuor, Mr. Hadzide said inasmuch as media freedom was essential for democratic growth and national development, irresponsible media practice on the other hand was grievously destructive to democratic growth and national development.
“It is, therefore, hoped that the GJA would use its 70th anniversary not just as an occasion to celebrate its achievements over the decades, but also to do some introspection of the failures of the media and the need to particularly strike a neat balance between media freedom and responsibility,” Mr. Hadzide stated.
The anniversary was on the theme “Democracy, freedom and independence of the media in Ghana: 70 years of GJA’s contribution”.
At the event, the National Planning Committee to oversee activities for the Platinum Anniversary to be celebrated throughout the country was inaugurated.
The Committee is under the chairmanship of a former GJA President, Ransford Tetteh.
Since the establishment of the GJA, on August 15, 1949, it has played a significant role in the political discourse of the country.
As the umbrella body of journalists in Ghana, the GJA led the media campaign against military dictatorship, even in the face of very perilous consequences.
Mr. Hadzide said the numerical growth in the media landscape vis-à-vis the enormous freedoms and independence accorded them by the 1992 Constitution, brought in its wake many challenges bordering on media responsibility.
“Need anyone remind the media that the same Constitution that grants them independence and freedoms also demands responsibility from them?” Mr. Hadzide asked.
He said it was his hope and that of all well-meaning Ghanaians that the GJA would have the wherewithal to deal with such challenges by sanctioning members who fall short of the responsibility peg.
He noted that it was on record that the government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) had been the most media-friendly government under the Fourth Republican Constitution; declaring that “and I daresay the entire history of Ghana”.
He recounted that during the tenure of former President Kufuor, the criminal libel law, which essentially criminalised free speech, was repealed with the view to expanding the frontiers of media freedom already guaranteed under Chapter 12 of the 1992 Constitution.
He added that former President Kufuor was generous enough to donate a state facility in Accra, which was transformed into the Ghana International Press Centre and the Headquarters of the GJA.
Mr. Hadzide said under another NPP-led Government, this time, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Ghana now had a Right to Information law.
The GJA President, Roland Affail Monney, said as part of the 70th Anniversary celebration, the GJA will hold a special forum on how to reposition two key state media institutions – the Ghana News Agency(GNA) and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) to operate optimally in the turbulent media landscape.
He lauded former President Kufuor for the outstanding role he played during his tenure of office in promoting media freedom in the country.
The Chief Executive Officer of McDan Group of Companies, Dr. Daniel McKorley, who chaired the function, urged Ghanaians to appreciate the fact that journalists hold the key to democracy in the country.
The General Manager of Citi FM and Citi TV, Bernardino Koku Avle, said the obligation of journalists was to the truth and not to the government or owners of media houses.
Mr. Avle, who is the 2017 Journalist of the Year, urged his colleague journalists to stand for the truth and to use the truth to fire injustices in society.