Oppong Nkrumah to judges: Don’t spare attackers of journalists

The Information Minister says quick action by judges in such cases is required urgently to stem physical attacks and threats of violence against journalists in Ghana

The Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, has called on judges not to spare individuals who attack journalists in Ghana, regardless of these attackers’ social status or political affiliation.

Oppong Nkrumah said the action is required urgently to stem attacks and a wave of verbal assaults on journalists in the country.

The minister was speaking at the opening ceremony of a training workshop in Ho for judges on the need to protect freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. The ceremony took place on Monday (20 June 2022).

Wheels of justice

“The wheels of justice may grind slowly, but My Lord Chief Justice,” said Oppong Nkrumah, addressing Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah, who was presiding over the occasion, “the feedback I have from my media colleagues is that we believe some quick punitive action targeted at the perpetrators of infringements against media practitioners will be appreciated.

“It will be the strongest message, to the next batch of state and non-state actors, that it is not acceptable to attack journalists, no matter how much you disagree with what they say,” said the minister, who doubles as the MP for Ofoase Ayirebi in the Eastern Region.

The workshop is designed to deepen judges’ capacity in dealing with matters of freedom of expression and the safety of journalists and to strengthen their expertise in fighting abuses against journalists by ensuring the prosecution and trial of those responsible for attacks on reporters and others working in journalism. The training involves 25 high court and Appeal Court judges.

Also present at the event was the UNESCO representative in Ghana, Abdourahmane Diallo; a representative of the Chief Justice, Professor Dominic Dennis Adjei, who is also a judge of the Court of Appeal; and other dignitaries.

Delicate area

Diallo told guests for the opening ceremony that freedom of expression and the safety of journalists are delicate areas which demand the attention of duty-bearers, arbitration officials and the security services.

This, he explained, is because freedom of expression and the safety of journalists are fundamental rights, as well as being indices showing how compliant or negligent a country is, relative to its constitutional provisions on these rights.

Professor Adjei stressed the need for collaboration between stakeholders within the media, to build a more robust ecosystem which ensures that infringements of journalists’ safety are reduced to a bare minimum, if not eradicated.

The Ministry of Information has set in motion a number of projects with the objective of supporting the Ghanaian media to counter attacks on journalists. These engagements since 2019 have led to the development of key interventions, aimed at supporting the media to confront the key challenges that journalists face.

Critical interventions

First of these is the inauguration of the office of the Co-ordinated Mechanism on the Safety of Journalists (CMSJ) under the National Media Commission (NMC). Vital to the operation of this office is the development of a framework for use by all stakeholders to create a safe environment, conducive to the practice of journalism; to prevent violence against journalists; to protect journalists in danger; and to prosecute perpetrators of violence against journalists.

The ministry, through its Media Capacity Enhancement Programme (MCEP), is also providing training for roughly 250 journalists on emerging issues in journalism. This is among collaborative efforts to support the sector, which has been under pressure.

New legislation on the Right to Information (RTI) has also been rolled out. New measures to foster this have included training and deployment or designation of RTI officers in the almost 600 government offices nationwide. The RTI Commission has also been set up and is making impressive strides in ensuring compliance to the RTI Act by public offices.

In addition, the ministry facilitated a broad-based consultation on the new Broadcasting Bill, which will assist state institutions to regulate the broadcasting sector better.

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