Ghana Drops 4 Places on World Press Freedom Index: Journalism in Trouble in Ghana. The Consequences could be dire
Ghana has dropped four places on the global press freedom index to be ranked 27 as against 23 and number one in Africa in 2018.
The World Press Freedom Index 2019, topped by Norway, finds an increased sense of hostility towards journalists across the world, with violent attacks in Ghana leading to the death of one journalists and beating and maiming of over thirty (30) journalists in line of their work the past three years.
Violence against journalists including police violence, attacks by supporters and vigilante groups of the ruling party and reprisals by criminal groups or corrupt politicians is one of the most striking characteristics of the current state of press freedom in Ghana. These beatings, maiming, destruction of camera and other equipment and the murder highlighted the many dangers that the Ghanaian journalists face, especially those working for media houses perceived to be anti- government.
I have seen government communicators struggling to balance the sheet with some bogus statistics. How a particular regime handles press freedom usually affect a succeeding regime. It usually takes two to three years for the new regime to wipe off that image be it positive or negative. In 2006, Ghana was ranked 34th, in 2007, we were ranked the 29th. In 2008, we dropped to the 32nd position, in 2009, we moved to the 27th position. In 2011/12, we dropped to the 41st position but was 4th in Africa, in 2013, we moved to the 30th position but was 3rd on the continent. In 2014, we moved to the 27th position. In 2015, Ghana was ranked 22nd and 2nd in Africa. In 2016, Ghana dropped to the 26th position but retained its 2nd position on the continent. In 2017, we maintained our 26th position and 2nd to Namibia in Africa. In 2018 we moved to the 23rd position but took the 1st position from Namibia. So contrary to the propaganda statics being paddled around by government communicators, Ghana improved its position when Prof Mills took over, dropped between 2011/12,but maintained its status on the continent. We dropped (between 2011/12) because of removal of autocratic regimes in some countries and improvement in their press freedom but not because of attacks against journalists by the regimes. So, our performance started deteriorating from 2006 because of how the regime then started handling the media. Prof. Mills/Mahama administration improved our position from 2009, we dropped few places between 2011/12 and improved steadily from 2013.
Authoritarian regimes around this world spend way more time and resources on suppressing dissent than on the welfare and prosperity of their people. Ghana is no different. The President, Nana Akufo-Addo and party folks including their vigilante groups aren’t particularly fond of democratic values. Instead, they draw inspiration from authoritarian regimes. Despite the fact that the majority of the TV/Radio news channels, and publications are still siding with the government propaganda, even the dissenting voices of the few media houses are not tolerated by the President and his government. Harassment, closing down of radio stations like Radio Gold and XYZ could not have been possible if the President and his invisible forces had not given the nod.
Since 2017 when President Akufo-Addo assumed power, Ghana has been under indirect martial law, and the establishment has been shrinking the space for dissent and freedom of the press by using him as a puppet. The President and his team are more concerned about their critics and the media exposing their administration’s weakness on the governance and think that those media houses and journalists not praising the President and his government are either traitors or working with their political opponents. Since the President himself is an insecure man, he knows that the manufactured opinion shaped through a large section of the media by his forces not only play a pivotal role in undermining former President Mahama but also brought himself to power. What the president and his party is going through is the disadvantage of not coming to power on a genuine mandate, as President Akufo-Addo deep inside knows that he is incapable of fulfilling his unrealistic electoral promises.
The few media houses perceived to be anti government are already facing financial crunch and the journalists working with these media houses are bearing the brunt, as they are not receiving their salaries in time, many have not been paid for months. Some of the media owners if not the majority, are contractors who execute government contracts. Those media owners who refuse to compromise on the integrity of their media houses and refuse to allow their media houses become part of the propaganda machine of the government are denied government contracts and adverts. Most journalists have become accustomed to not challenging the government because of government’s harassment and intimidation. Instead of playing their watchdog role, some of these journalists help spread the incorrect perception that phony economics could fix big problems.
Ghana dropped four places in the last worldwide press freedom index partly because of the enumerated problems. We moved to the number one position in 2018 and did better in 2017 because of the excellent record the current administration inherited from the Mahama administration.
Source: Ohenenana Obonti Krow