Broadening frontiers of media freedom
Yesterday, Tuesday, May 3, 2011, marked World Press Freedom Day. It is a day set aside by the United Nations to celebrate the achievements of the media around the world, which has fought relentlessly over the years to expand the frontiers of free speech and expression.
In tune with the significance of the occasion, Ghanaian media practitioners and representatives of civil society groups gathered at the International Conference Centre to commemorate the occasion, under the theme – '21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers.'
The event, the highlight of which was the ceremonial flag-raising ceremony sponsored by Accra Brewery Limited, which has donated an open door Browse House for use by the media, especially, during the 2012 Presidential and Legislative elections.
One significant gain from yesterday's ceremony was the promise by the government to re-house the National Media Commission. 'Government is working hard to address the accommodation and logistic challenges confronting the National Media Commission, and very soon, an announcement would be made in this regard,' Deputy Minister of Information Mr. Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, who stood in for his boss, promised, amidst cheers.
Under the 1992 Constitution, the NMC is charged with promoting the highest journalistic standards. But, the offices of the commission do not inspire anybody to want to improve on standards.
Members are of the commission are so poorly remunerated that there is very little incentive in wanting to continue to offer services beyond one's inclination to help.
The Chronicle commends the government for the decision to bail out the commission, and hopes that it would not be too long, to bring the exercise to fruition. The Chronicle will monitor the various stages leading to the fulfillment of the promise.
World Press Freedom Day owes its genesis to the vision of a group of journalists, including four Ghanaians, who met in Windhoek, Namibia, and who came out with the Windhoek Declaration – a call to protect the fundamental principles of freedom of expression, as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On such an auspicious occasion, The Chronicle pays tribute to media practitioners who helped to break the 'Culture of Silence' imposed by the military junta in this country in the 1980s and 1990s, leading to the freedom of the media enshrined in the Ghanaian Constitution.
We take this opportunity to remember those who gave up their lives in the course of the struggle, so that the media would be free. We remember John Kugblenu, one-time editor of the Free Press, who was incarcerated, tortured and died immediately upon release. It is nearly three decades ago, when John passed on defending the right to inform the people.
We also remember the then Publisher of the Free Press, Mr. Tommy Thompson, one man of courage who fought the military oligarchy until he also gave up the ghost. The only tribute we could pay to these two fine gentlemen who sacrificed their lives so that the media would be free, is for Ghanaian journalists to be courageous and publish according to our conscience, and damn the consequences.
Of course, in exercising our right to inform, educate and entertain the people, we should be guided by the tenets of the profession. We should resolve to be more professional and better educated. We cannot educate the people, when we ourselves are ill-informed.
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