Punish perpetrators of attacks against journalists -GJA

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The President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr Roland Affail-Monney, has called on authorities to punish perpetrators of attacks against journalists regardless of their material wealth, social status or political links.

He noted that the common thread which runs through our backsliding as a press is impunity, adding that impunity, if not checked, ignites a self-propelling and re-energizing cycle which then becomes hellishly difficult to uproot.

“A pesky call , therefore , goes to the authorities to deal surgically with the calcifying cancer of impunity by prosecuting and punishing, to the fullest extent within the law , perpetrators of attacks against journalists regardless of their material wealth, social status or political links,” he stated.

Speaking at a flag-raising ceremony to commemorate the World Press Freedom Day 2020 at the Press Centre on Monday, May 4th 2020, Mr Affail-Monney,”This is the least action expected in a country touted for its fidelity to the rule of law and not the rule of men.”

He also urged the government to give birth, with urgent promptitude, to the Monitoring Mechanism on the Safety of Journalists which has been incubating since last year.

“Even at the 30th position, Ghana’s media system is well at the optimistic end of the spectrum- adjudged as satisfactory by global benchmark and outranking paragons of journalism like US, UK and France,” he said.

Below is a full statement by the GJA President:

WELCOME ADDRESS BY GJA PRESIDENT AFFAIL MONNEY AT FLAG-RAISING TO COMMEMORATE WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY 2020 AT THE GHANA INTERNATIONAL PRESS CENTRE ON MONDAY, 4TH MAY 2020 Mr.

Chairman etc SALUTATION On behalf of the national executive of the GJA, indeed all Ghanaian journalists, other media professionals, and lovers of press freedom, I welcome you to this flag-raising in commemoration of Press Freedom Day, 2020 which has as its theme: “Journalism without Fear or Favour”.

It has three sub-themes which are “Safety of Women and Men Journalists and Media Workers”, “Independence and Professional Journalism Free from Political and Commercial Influence’ and “Gender Equality in All Aspects of the Media”.

Before I proceed, may we in all humility, rise up and observe a minute silence in honour of four of our departed colleagues, C .S. Buabeng of Graphic and NMC fame, Johnnie Aryeetey, former Acting Director of GTV, Edward Kwabi, Head of the Political Desk of TV3 and Dzifa Akator , Secretary at the Press Centre.

May their souls Rest In Peace. Mr. Chairman, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, as you are aware, this special day set aside for the celebration of press freedom- the day the GJA regards as “the day for the mother of all freedoms”, fell yesterday, Sunday, 3rd May , which was a non-working day for many of us. As a result, we have had to commemorate it a day later and under strict Covid -19 safety protocols .

3rd May was designated World Press Freedom Day by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993, following a recommendation by the UNESCO General Conference, concerning the Windhoek Declaration .

This was a statement of press freedom principles put together by African newspaper journalists in 1991 at a UNESCO seminar held in the Namibian capital from April 29 to May 3, 1991. It , among other things, asserted that “a free press is essential to democracy and fundamental human rights.”

The GJA made Ghana proud for being one of the first countries in Africa and indeed the world, to start the commemoration of the day. The GJA in 1994 with sponsorship by Fredrich Ebert Foundation (FES) held its first event. It has since, continued religiously, the celebration of the day with support from UNESCO, FES or Accra Brewery Limited.

Our consistency must be a great honour to the Ghanaian participants who attended that historic seminar in Windhoek in 1991. They are former GJA President Ajoa Yeboah -Afari , Professor P. A . V. Ansah , and Nyankomah of Radio Ghana, both of blessed memory.

It is needless to emphasize that World Press Freedom Day is to celebrate all those who have made significant contributions to the development of press freedom and to remember those who have suffered injuries or lost their lives in the line of duty as media professionals, or in defense of press freedom.

This is what motivated the GJA to compile an Honours List during the celebration of its 70th anniversary last year. It was a herculean task, considering the fact that it had to cover a period of seventy years.

We deliberately left out the area of sports which we hope would be done sometime later by SWAG in collaboration with the GJA From the Honours List , we zoom in on the global league table of free media systems to examine quickly the causal factors of Ghana’s decline- 23rd in 2018, 27th in 2019 and 30th in 2020.

The common thread which runs through our backsliding is impunity. Impunity, if not checked, ignites a self-propelling and re-energizing cycle which then becomes hellishly difficult to uproot.

A pesky call , therefore , goes to the authorities to deal surgically with the calcifying cancer of impunity by prosecuting and punishing, to the fullest extent within the law , perpetrators of attacks against journalists regardless of their material wealth, social status or political links.

This is the least action expected in a country touted for its fidelity to the rule of law and not the rule of men.

The GJA further urges the government to give birth , with urgent promptitude, to the Monitoring Mechanism on the Safety of Journalists which has been incubating since last year. Even at the 30th position, Ghana’s media system is well at the optimistic end of the spectrum- adjudged as satisfactory by global benchmark and outranking paragons of journalism like US, UK and France.

This , however, should not give room for any narcotic feeling of complacency. Rather, we must take all steps and move all out to salvage our achievements in media freedom and functional democracy .

Mr Chairman, the theme: Journalism Without Fear or Favour reinforces the point that journalism is not a profession for timid, timorous souls but one for brave and uncompromising characters .

This tough , indomitable streak enables some leading journalists to talk true to power , expose acts of corruption and hold the powerful to account.

The GJA specially salutes such special stalwarts on this special Day. In the same vein, we take umbrage over the breezy disregard for ethical values by certain media men and women who are consumed with incontinent ego and surfeited with prideful arrogance .

Press freedom is a liberty and not a license – liberty to perform and not license to destroy . The offenders must take note and repent. Mr Chairman , I cannot conclude my welcome address without commending, most highly , the indispensable role the media are playing in the fight against the COVID – 19 pandemic.

In an increasingly complex media landscape ignited by citizens right to the use of social media , the importance of the traditional media and the need for an all absorbing attention to reliable and accuracy become more paramount.

As the virus rages, we couldn’t but agree more with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that “the second pandemic of misinformation from harmful health advice to wild conspiracy theories” that have unfortunately accompanied the global fight against the virus can only be waged effectively by the media with “verified, scientific , fact-based news and analysis’.

While we all feel the devastating impact of the pandemic, UNESCO offers a glimmer of hope to the media. It says the unprecedented health crisis has the potential to rebuild trust in the profession.

The GJA intends to capitalize on this to strategize with its constituents and partners on how best to recalibrate and reinvigorate the post Covid-19 media system in Ghana. Mr Chairman, Deputy Minister of Information, UNESCO Country Rep, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for coming to commemorate the day with us. May the Lord continue to be our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.

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