Freedom of the Press 2008 - Ghana
|Publication Date||29 April 2008|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2008 - Ghana, 29 April 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4871f606b.html [accessed 19 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Legal Environment: 8 (of 30)
Political Environment: 10 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 9 (of 30)
Total Score: 27 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Ghana's reputation as a country with freedom of expression that is "unfettered" was not seriously threatened in 2007. However, there were some worrying signs involving the activities of nonstate actors, the overzealousness of presidential security guards, and clumsiness in managing press access to public events that could all combine to sully Ghana's image. Freedom of the press is guaranteed by law, and the government has a reputation within the region for respecting it in practice. In recent years, President John Kufuor's administration has demonstrated its desire to expand freedom of expression by repealing criminal libel legislation. The spate of civil libel cases brought by former public officials and private citizens against media outlets with cripplingly high fines in the past did not recur in 2007, partly because government dropped a number of libel suits against journalists. As President Kufuor enters the final year of his last term in office in 2008, a final push is under way by media interest groups to have government pass the promised Freedom of Information Bill. In May, the Freedom of Information Coalition-Ghana launched a campaign to do this under the provision of Article 21(f) of the 1992 constitution. Government ministers have said the bill will be submitted to parliament once reviews of measures to make it enforceable and practicable are complete.
Meanwhile however, a number of disturbing incidents during the year alarmed the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA). These include the April murder of Samuel Kwabena Eninn, editor of Ashh FM and chairman of the GJA in the Ashanti region. The police suspected robbery as a motive and announced a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of his killers. At the end of the year no one had been arrested and there was still no evidence that the incident was linked to Eninn's work. Charges of rough handling of media personnel were leveled in April against President Kufuor's security detail by journalists who said they were barred from covering the president's visit to flooded areas in the northern region and at a reception in Tamale. And in July, more than 500 local and foreign journalists were barred from the conference hall of the African Union Summit in Accra during the opening session of the summit. Guards providing security for the visiting African heads of state were also accused of roughing up reporters. Protocol officials claimed that restrictions on press access to the summit was because of security concerns. Following protests, the Ghana deputy minister of information apologized for lapses in arrangements for press coverage. Other access restrictions to news sources were made by sports journalists who said they were prevented from getting direct access to football players and coaches at the end of matches. No investigations were conducted during the year into any of the incidents of harassment of journalists that took place in 2006.
As President Kufuor's second four-year term ends in 2008, there are likely to be more reports of harassment and physical intimidation of journalists, mostly by non-state actors and political partisans as the politics of presidential succession heats up. Early posturing in the press suggests that the media will be in the eye of the storm. An indication of this was the statement issued in December by the Ashanti regional chapter of the GJA that condemned as unprofessional the endorsement of a presidential candidate by another group of journalists calling itself "Media Friends of Alan."
More than 135 newspapers, including 2 state-owned dailies, publish in Ghana, and approximately 110 FM radio stations function nationwide, 11 of which are state run; 27 television stations operate in Ghana. Radio remains the most popular medium. Poor pay and unprofessional conduct, including newspapers that invent highly sensationalist news stories, remain problematic. Limited revenue from advertising and reader subscriptions threatens the financial viability of private media outlets. Foreign media presence is highly visible, most notably through broadcasts from the British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio France Internationale, and Voice of America. Access to the internet is growing with 2.7 percent penetration of the population, primarily through internet cafés.