Ugly noise or media freedom?

by Fatawu

Daily Graphic Ghana3 May is a date set aside every year by the UN to celebrate the contribution of the press to the socio-economic development of humanity and to award a deserving individual who might have contributed in one or more ways to the emancipation of the media. This memorable day was marked worldwide with fora and public lectures.

In Ghana, such occasion was marked with symposia organized by the stakeholders of media freedom. In Ghana, this coincided with a report about an investigation into the alleged brutal attack on a journalist by the military during the Independence Day celebration. It was therefore expected that most of the commentary run on that particular day would be targeted at condemning the draconian act of the military, more especially it happened as on the august occasion of the nation’s Independence Day celebration.

Ghana, as a country with an estimated population of 25million people, can boast of 256 radio stations, 16 registered TV stations and numerous newspapers providing information, education and entertainment to the populace. This means that each region has, on average, about 25 radio stations and 1.6 TV stations. Because of the rural nature of Ghana, coupled with considerably high illiteracy and poverty, about 87% of the populace gets their information from radio stations.

Nonetheless, Ghana did was not given this state of affairs on silver platter; people were incarcerated without trial and even had to die for Ghana to get to where we are now. The most notable breakthrough in the annals of media history in Ghana liberalisation of the air waves and the repeal of the criminal libel law in 2001.The effect of this repeal has been captured by a statement made by Nana Akuffo Addo, the man under whose tenure as Attorney General this repeal was made possible. According to Nana Addo, the repeal of these laws has contributed to the growth of a vibrant and critical media that has won Ghana the reputation of having one of the most media friendly and liberal climates on the continent and has contributed significantly to the deepening of democracy in Ghana.

The repeal brought along with it several abuses: most of the media houses employ people who parade themselves on the street misinforming people instead of informing them. As if this is not enough, they assassinate anybody’s characters  unduly provided they hate your face; as most of the stories they publish are done without paying much attention to their own code of ethics they so subscribed to. The multi- million cedi question that easily comes to mind is; who regulates content of these media profession? Most of the stories they report lack in-depth analysis. Most of these abuses are again captured by the same persons who champion media pluralism. Nana Addo opined that excesses and acts of unprofessional conduct by the media, some of which cannot be justified under any circumstance, have partly given a bad name to sections of the Ghanaian media and provided the ready ammunition to authoritarian and anti-democratic forces to call for the reintroduction of the criminal and seditious libel laws.