Voltaire, the French scholar noted for his enlightenment once said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it”. It is said to be an illustration of Voltaire’s beliefs.
This quotation is often cited to describe the principle of freedom of speech. Today, the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) is on the warpath, and if you like, a mission to protect the confraternity of media people who become victims of brutality in the hands of some hoodlums, especially members of the political parties.
The GJA seeks to draw the attention of those who care to the continuous attack on journalists without provocation from people who cannot withstand media scrutiny.
Some of these backward acts have affected our ranking in the World Press Freedom Perception Index. Presently, our position on the index is nothing but satisfactory when once upon a time, say about 2014 or so, Ghana was number one on the African continent.
We urge all stakeholders and indeed everybody in the media value chain to respect the right of the media to do its work without let or hindrance.
The disagreements with the media should not be expressed through resort to the jungle where might prevails instead of justice and common sense.
Our supreme law, the Fourth Republican Constitution, sets out elaborate grounds for people who feel aggrieved to seek redress and not take the law into their own hands by assaulting journalists.
As we inch towards Election 2024, more of such barbaric acts are bound to happen as our politicians who seek our mandate to govern detest transparency, openness and accountability to the people.
Journalists must not be deterred by some primitive responses to the legitimate discharge of their duties. No matter the form of journalism – from investigative to beat reporting, foreign correspondence to domestic coverage, blogging to photojournalism – thorough preparation is the starting point.
No matter your beat, understanding the risks involved in every story is crucial to staying safe and secure. And before every assignment, we implore all journalists to undertake a risk- versus-reward assessment to evaluate whether the story is worth the risk. Sometimes the price can be very high in pushing the boundaries of journalism for a story.
Thus, as the GJA has pressed the safety button, it must educate and ask all media owners to put the safety of their journalists above the story.
That is why we disagree with the approach of the GJA in securing the safety of journalists. We should use the weapon in our hands to get duty bearers and the security agencies to act swiftly against assault on journalists.
But total news blackout on people, especially MPs of the governing NPP for their perceived role in the assault of journalists is not the solution.
In so-called advanced societies, protests are not declared in perpetuity but for a period, just to draw attention to a wrong.
A quotation attributed to the GJA President, Albert Kwabena Dwumfuor threatening fire and brimstone on media owners who violate the blacklist declaration is just unfortunate to say the least but very akin to the vow of Elvis Afriyie Ankrah of the NDC sacrificing his soul and that of his first born if he betrayed John Mahama in the December polls.
The GJA is not a shrine, but mostly God-fearing people including the GJA President who is a devout adherent of the Church of Pentecost. We are not against the GJA baring its teeth at those bent on killing freedom of the media so they can perpetuate their evil deeds not only against journalists but in the management of the public purse.
We think there are more effective ways to get the state to protect every citizen from attack on his or her person but not a blacklist, thereby denying the citizens' right to know. Like Voltaire, the GJA should detest Mavis Hawa Koomson and Farouk Aliu Mahama for looking on while their followers attack journalists, but as the institution with unflinching loyalty to free speech, Albert Dwumfuor and his team should not deny the two MPs the right to be heard.
We call on the GJA to review this blacklist mantra. Something too is worrying us. And that is about the NDC MPs who took double salaries but today call others corrupt. We believe those MPs are candidates for prosecution!