Former President John Agyekum Kufuor on Tuesday reminded journalists that in carrying out their professional duties, they should not use media freedom to destroy society.
“You should never misconstrue the prevailing favourable media environment as an unfettered freedom for ‘upsetting the applecart’ of governance, so to speak,” former President Kufuor remarked, when he formally launched the 70th Anniversary celebration of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in Accra.
“You should wield your power responsibly and acknowledge the fact that this power has been earned from the increasing trust the people’s representatives in both the Legislature and the Executive are gaining in you.”
The Anniversary is on the theme: “Democracy, freedom and independence of the media in Ghana: 70 years of GJA’s contribution.”
Since the establishment of the GJA, on August 15, 1949, it has played a very significant role in the political discourse and socio-economic development of the country.
Former President Kufuor urged the GJA to ensure that no one within the profession takes anything for granted to endanger and subvert the fine balance enacted by the Law.
“You must always remember that the abuse of the immense power of the press led to the Rwandan genocide through which almost a million people perished in the East African country in 1994.”
He said this harrowing history on the African continent entrenches the responsibilities of the journalism profession.
“The GJA must monitor its members to ensure that the rights of individuals and government are not unduly violated,” he said.
He appealed to the GJA to pull up its members who flout its ethics and rules, for necessary discipline.
He said “media freedom does not mean that members of your profession or media houses can operate in the media landscape without any limitations or rules of engagement, this is why practitioners should be well versed in the regular laws of sedition and defamation.”
He said the establishment of an association such as the GJA was to help curb the excesses of its members.
“It must never be forgotten that it is the same Rule of Law that defines the state and its organs of government, and conduct of its citizens, that fixes the interrelationships of all the entities, including your association and its practitioners, within the jurisdiction of the state,” he said.
“None, including the media, is above the Rule of Law,” the former President added.
He said the people of Ghana, through its Constitution, had chosen to be governed through multi-party democracy, with the freedom of the citizenry secured through the mechanism of checks and balances among its organs of governance.
He noted that central to this mechanism were the principles of transparency, accountability and probity.
He said the media was a critical watchdog institution to underpin the smooth and effective operation of the mechanism and must therefore be a vanguard respecter of the Constitution in all its terms and purposes.
“The media cannot therefore, be exempt from the principles of the Constitution.”
He said, it is with the full appreciation of these principles that the government that he led repealed the potently anti-democratic Criminal Libel Law in 2001.
He said the repeal had not only liberated the media landscape, but also vested real meaning into democratic governance of Ghana.
Mr Pius Enam Hadzide, a Deputy Minister of Information, urged the GJA to champion professionalism and responsibility among its members as it celebrates the 70th anniversary.
Mr Roland Affail Monney, the GJA President said as part of the 70th Anniversary celebration, the GJA would hold a special forum on how to reposition two key state-media institutions – the Ghana News Agency and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation 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.
Dr Daniel McKorley, the Chief Executive Officer of McDan Group of Companies, who chaired the launch urged Ghanaians to appreciate the fact that journalists hold the key of democracy in the country.