The Minister for Communications, Dr. Edward Omane-Boamah, has given the strong indication that government would continue to uphold freedom of expression enshrined in chapter five of the 1992 Constitution.
The Minister, gave this indication at a symposium and flag -raising ceremony to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day in Accra.
He said, World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) to acknowledge media pluralism and press freedom.
According to him, press freedom is an essential ingredient for national development and the day is celebrated on May 3, every year to mark the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek.
According to the 2015 World Press Freedom Index ranking, compiled annually by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders’, Ghana moved up five places to the second position out of 180 countries and it is second behind Namibia in Africa.
“I am told this is the highest position we have ever attained on the global rankings. We must indeed congratulate ourselves for making this significant progress in media development, especially when we beat giants such as the USA and the UK to it”, he said.
He noted the global theme for this year’s celebration is; Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, & Media Safety in the Digital Age is appropriate for the celebration.
The theme is indeed relevant to the Ghanaian situation and it provides the Media, Political Parties, Religious Leaders, Traditional Leaders, Non-Governmental Organisations, Civil Society Organisations and the entire citizens of Ghana, able and willing, an opportunity- To reflect on the progress, setbacks, prospects and their challenges in relation to press freedom within the context of the digital age whiles mainstreaming gender perspectives into the matrix he noted
He added such an exercise must prioritise the need for the media to educate and entertain with the view to equipping people to make informed decisions and choices based on credible information.
This noble task must at all times discern and defend the national interest and the safety of Practitioners must also at all times be protected and defended he called for.
“I do not want to make incursions into the comedy of errors that plagued the broadcast of the decision of the Panel which sat on the interim measures brought before it by La Cote D’Ivoire in the ongoing Maritime Boundary Dispute between them and Ghana, our beloved country, at the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea”, he said
I have chosen not to use vivid examples to allow all stakeholders to feel free to participate in today’s celebration with the hope that we shall all go and sin no more, he posited
He commended the media in Ghana that it reflects a beautiful mix of gender in the industry and also in its management.
He challenged the media, not only sustain and improve on this achievement, but also decide purposefully to be thicker on issues relating to gender.
“It is true that the media industry is becoming much more complex in the wake of digital and citizen journalism.
Oftentimes, there have been discrepancies in the work of the media, in terms of people’s right to true information and their responsibility to be fair and factual.
I am referring especially, to the speed with which people, such as citizen journalists put out information on social media without caring to cross-check their facts and figures. I am also referring to the indecent haste with which reputable media houses, traditional/conventional pick such information and publish them as the gospel truth without cross-checking”, he said.
He said by engaging in such practices, the media need to ask themselves whether to end up crucifying the principles of sound journalism, ethics and law or they will advance the frontiers of this noble profession?
In recent times, the media has been called upon on several occasions to help protect the privacy of individuals being negatively portrayed on social media.
It is significant to note that these requests have come from all sides of the political divide, including non-politicians.
He noted Government was desirous of the passage of the Right to Information Bill and it believe it would help improve the free flow of information which is critical to good governance and above all, raise the quality of reporting and help reduce speculative journalism.
He added Government will continue to support the National Media Commission and the National Communications Authority to work together to promote media development in the country.
This year we shall endeavour to ensure that proceeds from the TV License Fees will be equitably distributed among the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, The National Media Commission and the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association.
He said, Cabinet has also decided that the Film Industry benefits from the TV License Fees, because in a digital world content is as good as the numerous broadcasting houses that would proliferate once we migrate from analogue Television broadcasting to digital.