New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government repealed the criminal libel and sedition laws because it believes they were an obstacle to freedom of speech and a threat to the principles and growth of Ghana's infant democracy.
Mr Dan Botwe, minister for information, disclosed this in an exclusive interview with the paper in Accra. The occasion was this year's World Press Freedom Day.
The minister refuted an assertion by the Ghana correspondent of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, Mr Orando Yarquri at the ceremony that the party had repealed the laws in order to win massive support and sympathy from a section of the Ghanaian media, specifically the private press.
The minister, who is also the immediate past general secretary of the NPP, explained that the party administration had to repeal the laws in order for Ghanaians and the media in particular to operate in a free but responsible, conducive, political and social environment.
Mr Botwe said the media must reflect the concerns of society and lead the way by championing the agenda and course for national development, adding for the media to achieve this, any democratic and responsible government would have to provide the conducive environment.
The minister stressed that the NPP would not discriminate between the state-owned and private media but welcomes all media a cross board in a bid to build the nation.
He, however, noted that a section of the media think government policies are against the interests of the people. These media houses are free to criticise the Government and are welcome to provide the Government with alternatives, adding “we are so open to criticism, we are interested in the national development agenda, and that is what we all should be involved in.”
Mr Botwe confessed that it took the NPP Government a lot of sacrifice and a great sense of political maturity to repeal the libel and sedition laws.
He, therefore, cautioned journalists and media houses not to prove right, critics and skeptics, who never wanted the laws repealed. He condemned the unprofessional manner in which some journalists and media houses go about their duties and reportage, saying this gladdens the hearts of the skeptics.
The minister reminded journalists of the need to respect the rights of other people as they exercise press freedom, adding that after all press freedom is not for the media only but society at large.
He was not particularly happy about huge sums of money paid as court fines in the absence of the criminal libel law and said Government wished everybody would operate and respect the rule of law.
Mr Dan Botwe was, however, full of praise and gratitude to journalists and media houses who exhibit objectivity and professionalism in the national interest, saying the Government sees them as partners in the nation building efforts.