The Managing Editor of the Accra Daily Mail newspaper and President of the Ghanaian Centre of International PEN, Alhaji Abdul-Rahman Harrunna Attah has called on writers not to allow their personal interests to undermine that of the nation.
Alhaji Harruna Attah, himself, a "Prison Graduate", a title he earned from incarceration in 1998, said writers, especially those in the media should be more circumspect and careful to do what in the end will be to the good of all.
"Nothing can justify the disruption of our country - not even an election; no matter what we feel, we cannot allow our country to become the object of world ridicule and shame," he said.
Alhaji Harruna Attah said freedom of expression had been taken to absurd levels in many instances in the country and though it's not supposed to be curtailed, nether is it supposed to be used to destroy. "Freedom of expression is not supposed to be used in a fashion which in the end will destroy the common good", he explained.
Speaking last Saturday at the SSNIT Guest House in Accra where this year's Day of the Imprisoned Writer was observed, he said "for us in Ghana, we can exhale because for the past few years, no writer has had his or her rights taken away in through incarceration."
He said the Anniversary was worth celebrating in Ghana, especially with the clean record the country had maintained in recent years in ensuring that writers are not harassed for their works.
Alhaji Harruna Attah reminded the public that violence does not originate from a vacuum but is rather instigated, nurtured and directed by people, hence the need for all to work at sustaining peace in the country.
The Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) Prof. Kwame Karikari who chaired the event said "freedom of expression is one of the values we must all share and internalize....without freedom of expression there is nothing like democracy."
He said "democracy cannot stand if the human beings in the society cannot express themselves freely without looking left or right for somebody to come and hit them."
Prof. Karikari noted that "there is no better glory than fighting for the freedoms of human beings."
He said in Ghana people can call into any radio station and say anything and go scot-free.
He said in this election year, political parties are campaigning, some are insulting others, some are saying things they do not believe in and others are saying serious things they believe in and nobody is bothering them.
For this reason Prof. Karikari said "It has not always been like that in our country, it is not like that in most countries in Africa" and Ghanaians must defend and protect those gains.
He recalled historical experiences that hindered freedom of expression in the country and expressed worry that infringement on this right still pertained in other countries.
Prof. Karikari therefore asked the younger generation to strive to preserve the enjoyment of the right of freedom of expression by guarding against any attempt to create barriers.
He also reminded writers that their responsibilities should not be left out when enjoying freedom of expression, adding that freedom should go along with discipline, sensibility and feeling towards others.
November 15th is a day set aside by the International PEN to commemorate writers and journalists who have been harassed, attacked, detained, imprisoned or even killed in the practice of their profession. This year it was observed in Ghana under the theme: "The Writer as an Instrument of Peace".
Mr. Mckay Anim-Appiah, Executive Director of the Ghanaian Centre of Internationa PEN said the theme was chosen because of the Ghanaian elections. He explained that "it is a way of telling our journalists that it will be better for us to unite our people instead of using languages that tend to divide them."
He said "despite the fact that we are enjoying the freedom of speech and expression, some of our colleagues are going beyond bounds...freedoms go with responsibilities, as we ask the politicians to do the right thing; we journalists as well have to do the right thing by using languages that are in conformity with freedom of speech and expression.
He cautioned writers: "We don't want Ghanaian writers to have a bad name and record, that they were those who marred the edifice of Ghana's peace."
He cited countries where newspaper editors and journalists were languishing in jail for writing newspaper articles and books which the authorities did not like.
By June this year, 40 writers and journalists world-wide had been killed, 189 disappeared, 65 attacked and 30 detained, whilst 150 others also faced death threats.
Source: Accra Daily Mail