Recent attacks on journalists and media outlets in the country have raised concerns among many Ghanaians, particularly with the level of political parties’ involvement.
This comes after two separate attacks on the media recently; an invasion of UTV by New Patriotic Party thugs, and the assault of a CITI FM reporter by some thugs of the opposition National Democratic Congress.
The thugs who attacked UTV were charged with conspiracy to commit crime and rioting and convicted and fined 200 penalty units each – which translates to GH¢2,400 each while those who attacked the CITI FM reporter are yet to be prosecuted.
It is interesting to note that one-third of media firms in the country are either owned by politicians or people with close ties to the two main political parties in the country which mostly produce partisan content, yet attacks on media professionals and institutions continue rising.
Since the beginning of the year about five journalists are reported to have been attacked with three cases happening in a week.
For the second time in a row, the country suffered a drop in the yearly Press Freedom Index report published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
The nation dropped to 62nd place in 2023 from 60th place the previous year. Ghana, moreover, came in ninth place among African nations, up from tenth in the 2022 edition. Ghana hasn’t done this in eighteen years, since it finished 66th in 2005.
Additionally, the rating reveals that Burkina Faso outperformed Ghana even though it was governed by the military, prohibited local rebroadcast of foreign stations, and deported foreign journalists.
Some of the African countries that ranked ahead of Ghana were Namibia (22) South Africa (25), Cabo Verde (33), Seychelles (34), the Gambia (46), Ivory Coast (54), Burkina Faso (58), and Niger (61).
NPP And NDC In The Blame-Game Politics
However, the two major political parties in the country, the opposition National Democratic Congress and the ruling New Patriotic Party have blamed each other on the rising attacks and abuse of journalists in the country.
Speaking in a news interview on Wednesday night, October 18 2023, the Deputy General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress, Mustapha Gbande accused President Akufo-Addo and the New Patriotic Party of creating a culture that promotes attacks on journalists.
According to Mr Gbande, he is not surprised at Ghana’s Press Freedom scores in recent times as the ruling government is seen instigating attacks and abuse of media professionals and institutions.
“What is more worrying started in 2017 when the ruling government began to undermine the independence of media institutions in the country. We have a situation where media houses are not allowed to talk about issues if you are not on the side of government”.Mustapha Gbande
Moreover, the National Democratic Congress Deputy General Secretary also bemoaned of the inadequate protective and security measures on the part of media owners to journalists as part of the rising attacks and abuse on media professionals and institutions.
“If you look at the case of UTV, such a big media institution and hoodlums or people I referred to as criminals were able to break into that building and go to the studio. For me, that means that the place is not secure enough and if you have journalists who are doing such sensitive work for the nation and the people of Ghana and their working environment security is as porous as nothing, then, of course, it is not just the behaviour of political parties or politicians.
“You must also take the owners of these media institutions responsible and is a lesson that going forward media houses ensure that it is difficult for people to get access to its studios to not only protect journalists but guests from attacks”.Mustapha Gbande
Mr Gbande also emphasized that NDC frowned against any act of violence or vandalism and is very committed to subjecting the perpetrators of the assault against the CITI FM journalist to the party’s internal rules and the laws of Ghana to prevent future occurrences.
Meanwhile, the Director of Communications of the ruling New Patriotic Party chastised the National Democratic Congress for its unhealthy longstanding relationship with the media.
According to him, unlike the National Democratic Congress, the New Patriotic Party is very committed to upholding the freedom and independence of the media.
Mr Ahiagbah stressed the importance of collaboration and partnership among stakeholders including political parties, government and media institutions to prevent attacks and abuses on journalists.
From the foregoing, it is abundantly clear that internal political measures such as sanctions, condemnations etc. would be a key disincentive against perpetrators of abuse and attacks of journalists; political parties must therefore distance itself and penalize its members that engage in any act of violence against media professionals or institutions to prevent future occurrences.