Journalists and media practitioners the world over celebrated their day yesterday with the observation of World Press Freedom Day.
We are always there to help others to celebrate landmark events and it is, therefore, proper and just that we should mark our day to draw the attention of others to the role we play and the concomitant challenges.
While the global theme for the celebration, sanctioned by the United Nations to recognise, appreciate and celebrate the contributions of the mass media to global peace, development and democracy, is, "Press Freedom, Safety of Journalists and Impunity", the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) deemed it fit to base our celebration on the contributions and challenges of public service broadcasting to governance and national development within the 50 years of our independence.
Journalists must always be guided to shun impunity, in the same way that they have to be shielded from acts of lawlessness and unilateralism.
Whereas the roles played by the media and journalists are indispensable, for which society has to protect and safeguard them, they must also understand that anytime they act against their own ethical standards and abandon professionalism, they endanger the lives of innocent individuals who also have the right to live in freedom.
The media and journalists have to play watchdog roles to help all citizens to assert their freedom and be able to freely express their viewpoints or share their opinions on matters of public interest.
We must always remember that the code of ethics of the GJA enjoins us to provide our people with truthful, unbiased information.
Thus we must know that anytime we trade in rumours or unsubstantiated allegations we imperil our people and endanger their safety. They become vulnerable and exposed, and when that happens we leave ourselves prone to impunity and all manner of abuses.
With the diffused presence of radio, the potential of relaying messages instantly and the impact on social mobilisation, public service broadcasting becomes crucial.
Within the past few days, rumours about deadly mobile phone calls gained currency because some radio stations relayed the rumours and exacerbated the fear among sections of our people, creating unnecessary anxiety.
Some of the print media which attempted to intervene and assure the public that there was no truth in the rumours equally ended up fuelling the anxieties with their own versions.
We can only support peace, development and democracy when we carry out our responsibilities in a professional and ethical manner.
The essence of journalism and mass media can be seen when they perform with credibility, respect self-regulation, take collective responsibility and cherish accuracy and fairness in news reporting.
It is only when journalists refrain from impunity that we can be protected from impunity and give meaning to World Press Freedom Day.