Ghana As Number One On Press Freedom In Africa: Pushing Forward In The Coming Years

Ghana must be congratulated for chalking another success on the mettle of Press Freedom in Africa and the world in entirety.

The West African country has been a pillar in Journalism Practice in West Africa and now Africa as a continent since assuming a Constitutional Rule in 1992.

The Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), popularly known as Reporters Without Borders established in 1985 with headquarters in Paris, France has been rating 180 countries on the depth of Press Freedom.

The RSF as media-centred non-profit organisation seeks to promote and defend freedom of information and freedom of the press worldwide.

Every year, since 2002, the RSF rates countries on press freedom (recently on 87 questions in 20 languages including English, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Korean and Indonesian) under seven key indicators: Pluralism, Media Independence, Environment & Self-Censorship, Legislative Instrument, Transparency, Infrastructure and Abuse in a qualitative analysis in combination to quantitative data.

The index is believed to be one of the tools that the World Bank uses to evaluate a country’s respect for the rule of law.

In the 2016 World Press Freedom Index of the RSF, Ghana (26thin the world) scored 17.95% to become second to Namibia (17th) which scored 15.15% for the first position for Africa ranking followed by Cabo Verde (32nd), South Africa (39th) and Burkina Faso (42nd) in the 3rd, 4th and 5th positions for the Africa ranking.

Interestingly, in the 2017 Index, Ghana (26th) maintained the same score 17.95% to remain second to Namibia again though Namibia (24th) as first in Africa declined its score to 17.08% with Cabo Verde (27th), South Africa (31st) and Burkina Faso also remaining at the 42nd but in the 3rd, 4th and 5th positions respectively for the Africa ranking.

However, in the recent-released 2018 Index, Ghana has caused a massive surprise by ascending to 23rd position in the global ranking but 1st in Africa by scoring 18.41% with Namibia scoring 20.24% to occupy Ghana’s former positions 26th in the global but 2nd in Africa rakings. South Africa (28th), Cabo Verde (29th) and Burkina Faso (41st) in global but 3rd, 4th and 5th in the Africa rankings.

This means that though Ghana is first in Africa, scoring 18.41% for that position and even for the 23rd global position, speaks volumes of more rooms for improvement.

It would be gratifying to see Ghana surge forward, at least, to be within the first 15 countries in the next press freedom index while 2016 and 2017 first-timer Namibia makes her way through as well.

What possibly have contributed to Ghana’s success

If nothing at all, the Ghanaian Media Industry should be remembered for Freedom of Expression and Independence of the Media enshrined in Ghana’s 1992 Constitution (Chapter 12, Articles 162 to 173). The role of the National Media Commission (NMC) and the National Communications Authority (NCA) as independent state institutions that monitor, regulate and steer the affairs of media operations in the country.

The NMC has registered about 136 newspapers (The Daily Graphic, the Ghanaian Times, Daily Guide and Financial Times from four different newspaper companies combine to produce 95.9% readership). Also in the record is a news agency, the Ghana News Agency (GNA).

In the same year, 1992, Liberalisation of the Airwaves, also gave rise to plural media for radio and television stations to operate. Currently, according to the NCA, there are over 505 registered radio stations and about 117 registered television stations.

Currently, there are also online portals and almost every newspaper and radio station has its online site actively operating.

The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) was established as a national umbrella body to steer the affairs of the Ghanaian media community with supporting related bodies like the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), Editors Forum, etc. helping to breathe life into journalism practice in Ghana.

In 1994 on July 27 in Sunyani, the GJA developed and adopted the GJA Code of Ethics (17 Articles) with support from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES Ghana). However, the GJA Code of Ethics was reviewed in 2016 and adopted 24 Guidelines. The guidelines have been reviewed to suit the new media, especially, (online journalism) and social media.

Ghana is still in the process of doubling steps through the Ministries of Information and Communication with calls on the Legislature (Parliament of Ghana) to pass the Right To Information (RTI) Bill into Law. So far, Cabinet of the ruling government has considered the bill and the media fraternity and its related institutions are waiting on Parliament to legalise the RTI.

Accreditation for media training institutions by the National Accreditations Board (NAB) to run media programmes for study has been steadily progressive but there is the need to check on some institutions that are likely to train quack practitioners.

Relatively better Remuneration for Ghana media practitioners is still challenging issue on the table that must be attended to. This is because observation and monitoring show there are more practitioners who either receive no or poor remuneration. Only a fraction of practitioners receives relatively better remuneration.

Learning from Norway and sister Nordic Countries
Upon all the greater achievements, Ghana as Africa’s continental giant on press freedom could draw many lessons from Norway and sister Nordic countries (Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland) which have consistently been leading the world index on Press Freedom.

Norway began online journalism in the early 1990s in the history of global journalism and that media practitioners in Ghana as well as sister continental countries would need to pull strings for lessons from Norway and sister Nordic countries.

Media Scholars, Daniel Hallin and Paolo Mancini (2004) have provided three different frameworks within which the media should operate. They are the Democratic Corporatist Model, Liberal Model and the Polarized Pluralist Model.

Norway and sister Nordic countries are patronisers of the Democratic Corporatist Model which seeks co-existence of commercial media and a media industry tied to organised social and political groups as described by Jonas Ohlsson (2015).

Media Accountability Systems, so far Perfect TV Licence fee model, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), Newspaper Subsidy, resounding Gender Parity in media, Media Welfare Policy, coveted better Remuneration for Media practitioners, among others, define the lifeline of a progressive media practice in the Nordic countries as a Mirror for the rest of the world.

Ghana could tap into these and many other resources from the Nordic media model. At least, so far, Ghana has strengthened ties with Norway through collaboration of the GJA and the Norwegian Union of Journalists for training on Gender Parity in media practice and this is a good start.

The Writer is a Ghanaian Journalist, Communication Consultant & Social Media Analyst based in Norway.

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