The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has called on government to do more to ensure the safety and security of journalists in the country.
According to the UN agency, it was worrying that media advocacy organizations like the Media Foundation for West Africa were reporting that the safety of the Ghanaian journalist has been deteriorating in recent years.
“For sometime now, major watchdogs such as the Media Foundation for West Africa have been sounding the alarm that the safety of journalists in Ghana is deteriorating” Mr Abdourahamane Diallo, UNESCO Head of Office disclosed in Tamale on Wednesday.
“The Media Foundation for West Africa recorded 64 violations against journalists in the eight year period between 2001-2008, 56 incidents in the eight year period between 2009- 2016 and 56 in the shorter four year period for 2017 to 2020, an indication of a worsening situation” he pointed out.
The UN diplomat said journalists and media institutions must be free to work without any risk.
Mr Diallo wants government to “strongly sanction” perpetrators of attacks on media persons and institutions.
“Ghanaian authorities must do more to create a safe environment for journalists and media institutions as well as artists [cartoonists] and show better flow of information without risks for journalists and artists and stop impunity by strongly sanctioning perpetrators of attacks ” he demanded.
The UNESCO Head of Office was addressing a consultative meeting with journalists in the Northern Region on the coordinated mechanism on the safety of journalists.
Mr Diallo said even though Ghana was doing relatively well in the fight against crimes against journalists, more still needs to be done.
He said in the last decade alone, a journalist was killed in the line of duty every four days globally.
“The year 2019 shows the lowest death toll recorded by UNESCO with 57 deaths” he said.
Mr Diallo also expressed concern over the low rate at which crimes against journalists are resolved, noting that ” 2020, somehow, we recorded slight decrease in the rate of impunity with a percentage of 30% of cases worldwide reported has [been] resolved, as compared to 12% in 2019 and 11% in 2018…this is not enough”.
The meeting was organized by UNESCO in collaboration with the National Media Commission for selected journalists practicing in the five regions of the north.
NMC committed to ensuring safety of journalists
The Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC) reiterated the commitment of the commission to protect the rights and safety of the Ghanaian journalist.
Mr Yaw Boadu Ayeboafo said the Ghanaian journalist must always feel safe and secured in discharging their duties.
Mr Ayeboafo who himself is a veteran journalist said media practitioners must be protected at all cost, regardless their excesses.
“When it comes to the safety of the journalist, it doesn’t matter the irresponsibility of the journalist” he said.
Mr Ayeboafo however reminded journalists that despite the assurances by the commission, journalists must be responsible and ethical in the discharge of their duty.
He advised journalists to ensure they do not endanger their lives when they adopt unorthodox means of seeking for information.
The Executive Secretary of the NMC, George Sarpong encouraged journalists to practice without fear or favour.
GJA to secure services of lawyers to pursue cases of violations against journalists
The Acting Northern Region Chairman of Ghana Journalists Association, Mr Yakubu Abdul Majeed on his part revealed that the association was going to secure the services of lawyers to pursues cases of violations against its all journalists in the region.
He said it was disheartening that institutions that are supposed to ensure the safety and security of journalists are the ones that are notorious for violations against media practitioners.
Mr Majeed however cautioned journalists to always prioritize their safety and maintain the highest standards of the profession.
Story: Mumuni Yirifa Yunus I Justicefmonline | Tamale