I remember when a lecturer entered the lecture hall and the first question he asked was; “if you met the President today, what one question will you ask him”? While some spoke of how they would ask questions ranging from the economy to education and security matters, my mind abruptly settled on, “how safe are Journalists in Ghana”?
This issue, I have been yearning to ask our leaders for years, if I ever get that opportunity, and yes, the general public, deserves to be asked same.
As a student Journalist, it may be less surprising that, such a thought crossed my mind.
It feels like an arrow piercing the heart, when news of Journalists assaulted is reported.
Not only that, it fills one with fear, especially finding yourself, lacing your boots in preparedness to join the same profession.
Over the years, Journalists, have often been battered, disrespected and maltreated, in the line of duty.
How safe are we as Journalists? Is it erroneous for a Journalist to seek out the truth and report it?
According to Chapter 12 Article 162(4)of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana,“Editors and publishers of newspapers and other institutions of the mass media shall not be subject to control or interference by Government, nor shall they be penalized or harassed for their editorial opinions or views, or the content of their publications”. However our society is such that, Journalists are not only beaten, but to some extent, murdered.
In centuries past, when the profession of Journalism was yet to gain grounds, particularly in very traditional settings, there were those who were always on the lookout for anything that can cause harm to the community or perhaps, any adversary who wanted to attack (especially in the epoch of war).
By blowing a horn or banging a metal, he alerts his people to make them aware of any such information or peril that linger around them.
Luckily in the 21st century, there is the Journalist who plays almost the same role and even more. Informing people of the happenings around them, educating them and announcing any information that can as well affect the social lives of the citizenry.
However, if these Journalists are brutalised for the job they do, then I question the idea of justice and imagine a world without the Journalist. A society where no one informs us of what is happening both in our country and the outside world; a society where we are oblivious of what our leaders are up to since we don’t have anyone to enlighten us about them; a society where no one tells us before hand issues that borders on security; a society where no one keeps an eye on the operations of our leaders; a society where we lack the education needed to keep us abreast with current issues; a society where we do not have the platform to air our views….then I ask, is it really a society worth living in?
Considered as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the Journalist is charged with the responsibility of making sure people who have been trusted with public resources and power do not misuse it. It’s worrying to find the society which we are meant to protect with our “pen and mouth”, thrashing us to death. Yes, we are the watchdogs of the society and as the name suggests, we bark “with our mouth and pen” when we realise any odd event in the society.
Freelance Journalist, Kendrick Ofei, was once brutalised by some Military Personnel.
A heartbreaking incident which occurred on no other day than the 6th of March 2017, a day which was meant to commemorate the independence of the nation Ghana; because he was spotted filming some Military Personnel who were initially brutalising a civilian at the Black Stars Square.
Is this the sort of country we ought to have considering how far we have come as a nation?
Same rhythm was played for Isaac Nsiah Foster, a Journalist who was investigating some residents who complained about a construction site and this led to him being beaten by the construction workers.
Investigative Journalist, Ahmed Hussein Suale’s story, can certainly not be left out when he was cruelly murdered.
A piteous incident in the history of assaulted Journalists in Ghana and a disgrace to our society; killing those who go through hot waters to fish-out acts of bribery and corruption covered by individuals who hold the trust of the society. This is an infamy to our nation.
As human beings, we are capable of committing mistakes and so are Journalists but certainly not to the point of being harmed or killed for the job we do. And even if a Journalist does anything which the society feels is unlawful, the law exists to take its course and not for them (the Journalist) to be assaulted in any way.
Every profession comes along with its own risks and Journalism is no exception. But then, must we kill, harm or assault the Journalist? Must blood spill and hospitalize them for uncovering sleaze?
Some of these terrible acts taken against Journalists may have been punished by law, but then, must we always be abused before Justice speaks? For how long are we to endure this?
The nation must take a second look at menace. Not to resolve or seek justice when they occur but to prevent them from occurring.
Story By; Sarah Appiah
Student, Ghana Institute of Journalism