Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, the Vice-President, has said attacks on journalists are a threat to the country’s democracy and general well-being.
To this end, he has echoed the government’s commitment to ensure the safety of journalists in the country and also called for a coordinated approach to combat the menace in order to ensure freedom of the media.
In line with that, he said, the Ministry of Information was working with the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) to institute a coordinated mechanism to ensure the safety of journalists, as well as a capacity enhancement programme for media personnel.
Speaking at the 24th GJA Awards in Accra over the weekend, he said: “They need to have a coordinated mechanism for the safety of journalists has gained prime importance the world over, as attacks on journalists have been on the rise globally.”
The Vice-President Dr Bawumia’s comments came on the back of an overabundance of attacks on journalists in their line of duty.
Majority of the attacks are allegedly by members of the security agencies.
Although the perpetrators in some of the cases were identified, the cases were settled amicably, sometimes with apologies.
In most cases, however, no compensation was paid, while the security organisation involved promised to offer better working relations with the media.
The awards ceremony, which also commemorated the 70th anniversary of the GJA, celebrated and honoured journalists and media organisations which worked tirelessly in ensuring development in all spheres of the country.
It was held on the theme: “Democracy, freedom and independence of the media in Ghana: 70 Years of GJA’s contributions”.
The event was enlivened with comedy and live band performances.
Dr Bawumia said the safety of journalists was key to media freedom, which was imperative to the peace of the country.
He praised the media for their enormous contribution towards peaceful elections in the country and their continuous effort to provide platforms for political participation and the provision of qualitative information for people.
“For example, the instrumental role the media played in the 2013 Supreme Court election petition was the litmus test of the profundity of the Ghanaian media and their institutional growth.
“Again, the media are the front burners in agenda-setting for political party manifestos, including their co-functions of surveillance, early warning signals on potential sources of threats to peaceful elections and information dissemination,” he said.
While praising the media for the positive impact on the country’s democracy and development, the Vice-President said some journalists and media organisations had failed to be circumspect in election reportage.
He said there was the need for the media to be circumspect in their election reportage, especially with regard to certain sensitive political issues, in order to sustain the peace in the country.
“In the midst of Ghana’s democratic credentials is the ill of acrimonious politics, exacerbated in the winner-takes-all system of governance.
The practice, unfortunately, is heavily chipping away and eroding our political and economic gains. Politics of acrimony is exclusionary and a potential source of threat to the peace, coexistence, development and equal distribution of public good,” he stated.
He advised the media to use the ceremony to reflect on their past and examine how to perfect the industry in the future.
The President of the GJA, Mr Affail Monney, said no journalist should be a victim of an attack.
He said with the general election of 2020 approaching, candidates, supporters and the security agencies must not dare to attack journalists.
“The election bells are ringing and the campaign season is approaching. We say to all candidates and their supporters: touch not any journalist. This year, we have witnessed many cases of impunity of such attacks. Perpetrators of media attacks must be punished to the fullest extent permissible under the law,” he said.
Describing the media as a true partner in development, a Deputy Minister of Information, Mr Pius Enam Hadzide, said the contribution of the media to national development could not be underestimated.
He said the Ministry of Information was helping to create a conducive environment for journalism in the country.
“We are working with stakeholders to roll out a coordinated mechanism for the safety of journalists and a media capacity enhancement programme,” Mr Hadzide said.
The Chairman of the National Media Commission, Mr Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh, in his address, called on journalists and media organisations to present their stories in an unambiguous manner for the public to understand.
He further appealed to the GJA to continue to improve the capacity of its members to enable them to work effectively for the benefit of the country.