Ghana media is threat to press freedom – Blay-Amihere

Ambassador Kabral Blay-Amihere - NMC Chairman

The Ghanaian media has been admonished to make efforts to do self regulation and be responsible or else it is in itself becoming a threat to press freedom in the country.

Ambassador Kabral Blay-Amihere, Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC) made the remarks during the first anniversary celebration of the 6th NMC in Accra.

He said the irresponsibility and total disregard of the ethics of the journalism profession on the part of some media houses is becoming  a major threat to press freedom.

“Many editors, radio talk show hosts and presenters are abandoning their gate-keeping role and allowing all kinds of stuff on the airwaves and in media” he said.

He expressed sadness about the fact that hate speeches, insults and pornography seem to have assumed respectability when they should be frowned upon in the media.

“Sadly,” he said “some media owners look on unconcerned and  oblivious of the negative effect of what comes through their media.”

Other threats to press freedom he said are the extreme politicization and polarization of the media which compels the principles of objectivity, fairness and truth to be thrown to the dogs and bulls.

He said some ministers of state, speakers and serial callers have used the media platform as campaign slots to do propaganda in order to gain some advantage.

“Because the morning talk shows are so important, Ministers of State must find time in spite of their heavy schedules to appear on them lest their shadows in the opposition gain undue advantage,” he said.

“There are several publications across the political divide, which are at best propaganda sheets and not newspapers. The paradox of the situation is that politicians who are behind these media are the most vocal in calling for good behavior among the media” he said.

Ambassador Kabral also mentioned the undermining of the government’s position not to muzzle press freedom by the Ghana Police Service.  He said the Ghana Police is resurrecting an old law to put the fear of the police in all those who are alleged to cause fear and panic in the country adding, “their actions are not good for Ghana’s reputation”.

He pointed out the inadequate resource of the media which is also a threat to press freedom.

He said the financial constraints of the private media in particular, has affected the performance and standards of the media.

He therefore, called on the private sector who he said are the greatest beneficiaries of Ghana’s democracy and free media to protect their wealth and business by supporting the press through advertisement and direct support to the media.

Making a presentation on the ‘Legal Framework for Media Practice in Ghana’, Dr. Audrey Gadzekpo, a media expert and lecturer at the School of Communication Studies, Legon called for reviews of the three media related bills such as the Right to Information Bill, the Broadcasting Bill and the Defamation Bill that are at different stages of the law-making process.

She said for instance the Broadcasting Bill needs a second look because article 168 of the constitution provides that the NMC shall appoint the chairmen and other members of the governing bodies of the state-owned media in consultation with the president which has even received a judicial elucidation. She said it is curious that clause 15 (2) of the current bill provides that the chief executive of a state-owned broadcasting service shall be appointed by the Board in consultation with the Public Service Commission. “This is clearly an error and unconstitutional” she said.

Commenting on the Defamation Bill 2009, she said even though there is a need for the passage of a Defamation Act that is consistent with the spirit and letter of the constitution on freedom of expression and media freedom, it is rather unfortunate that the current Defamation Bill does not seem to be activated by these concerns and appears unduly punitive in its general thrust and in some respect involves a step backward from English common law principles.

She said the bill tends to blur the distinction between absolute privilege and qualified privilege as traditionally understood and this can hardly promote a healthy climate for media freedom and responsibility.

Dr. Gadzekpo called for an independent information commission to be established to ensure undue bureaucratic obstacles after the passage of the Right to Information Bill into law. She said this would make information acquisition very inexpensive, open, timely and very easy.

She urged that the commission should be given the mandate to carry out mass public education and train information officers and to serve as a body that would appeal against refusal of applications that the public would make.

By Ekow Quandzie

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.