President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo says he prefers a boisterous, even reckless, media to a praise-singing press
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo says he prefers a vibrant and a reckless media in Ghana and the rest of Africa to praise-singing and sparing treatment.
Speaking on 1 June 2021 in Accra at the African Journalists Leaders’ Conference, organised by the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), Akufo-Addo said that on his watch, he will continue to safeguard the freedom of journalists.
“I maintain that I prefer a boisterous, even reckless media to a sparing one,” Akufo-Addo said, speaking on the theme of “Building Stronger Unions to Enhance Journalism and Media Freedom”.
“As President of the Republic, I have seen to the passage of the Right to Information Act, which is meant to give effect to Article 21 (1) f of the constitution of the republic, which states: ‘All persons shall have the right to information subject to self-qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society.’ Several preceding administrations have shied away from taking such a step,” he said.
Akufo-Addo added: “The culmination of all these has meant that the Ghanaian citizen, through the presence of a dynamic media, is able to give boldly and freely his or her feedback on policies and programmes of the government.
“Civil society groups are able to interrogate fearlessly government actions and positions, compare them to global best practice and offer views and critiques in complementing efforts of government, and the political opposition is able to raise [questions] decent openly, canvas for alternative viewpoints and, by so doing, offer our citizens alternatives to consider on all key issues of our national discourse.”
Criticising the media
Akufo-Addo observed that there is a trend developing in the media regarding what constitutes an attack on the media. The president argued that, to the extent that the media are allowed to criticise and take on officialdom and the rest of the citizenry, it means that the media should also be ready to accept review and criticism of the media’s work from the citizenry and officials of state.
“On a day like this, it is also important to consider some of the emerging challenges to media freedom. One of them is what constitutes an attack on media freedom. It cannot be right, no matter where in the world, that journalists are physically attacked or prevented from doing their work. Once that happens, it is an attack on media freedom and it must be roundly condemned by all,” the president said.
“However, there seems to be an emerging narrative which is being proffered by some in Ghana that critiquing the work of a journalist constitutes an attack on media freedom. That certainly cannot be described as an attack on media freedom.
“Having the freedom to criticise and oppose should also mean that the media are ready to accept and work with criticism of [their] work by citizenry or officialdom. That, for me, is one of the surest ways of improving the public discourse of our respective countries, and we should all strive towards realising this,” he said.
Plea for attention
Akufo-Addo took advantage of the international gathering to solicit the support of journalists in Africa for more reportage and attention for three issues which, he said, are of continental significance and on which a committed partnership is needed between the media and African governments.
These matters, the president said, are the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, which are threatening the stability of all regions of the African continent; the fight against climate change, including the preservation of the integrity of the environment and water bodies; as well as the fight against the illicit flow of funds out of the African continent, which is conservatively estimated to be $89 billion a year.
“These are all menaces to the health, progress and stability of our nations and continent. We should stand shoulder to shoulder in ridding our continent and nations of them,” Akufo-Addo said.
The Federation of African Journalists is the regional organisation of IFJ affiliates in Africa – providing a vital collective voice in defence of the social and professional rights of all African journalists.
Founded in 2007, FAJ provides support and solidarity to unions and associations with a mandate to promote trade union development in the media industry in Africa, to address professional issues, to protect and defend freedom of expression and the right to information as well as journalists’ human rights, as laid down in the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa.
The FAJ, as the largest organisation of African journalists, is a vital representative voice at a pan-African level, speaking for journalists at UNESCO and the AU. FAJ activities are governed by its constitution, adopted by the triennial congress, which also elects a steering committee and officers.