A former Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Prof. Kwame Karikari, has expressed regret over what he describes as excessive recklessness and abuse of press freedom in the country.
He said while the freedom of journalists to undertake their work is guaranteed by the constitution, that freedom must not be abused.
“There’s been too much recklessness and abuse of press freedom. There is too much unprofessionalism and a lot of citizens are insulted, abused and journalists go scot-free. There’s been a lot of the abuse of the freedom on the airwaves particularly, and also in print and on social media,” he said at Citi TV’s media roundtable on freedom of speech held in Accra on Friday, February 25, 2022.
Recent incidents of arrest of journalists and media practitioners, public figures for publication of alleged false news using the criminal code, have brought the issue of freedom of speech and its boundaries back to the limelight, sparking a debate about the use of Article 207 and 208 by the police to prosecute such persons.
But according to Prof. Karikari, it cannot be out-rightly said that the police is targeting journalists for arrests when journalists are failing to adhere to the standards of the profession and going on to abuse others using their platforms.
He suggested that industry leaders and groups including the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), Private Newspaper Publishers Association (PRINPAG) and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) look into the issue and develop the appropriate standards to guide journalists in their work to avert the spate of arrests.
“If someone [the police] is using the law that exists to say ‘watch it’, I think we must find out whether or not what the enforcers are trying to cure is legitimate. The question is simply that, when the police engage in policing speech, we have a problem. But again, we don’t have an effective regulatory system in the newsrooms, at the industry levels and the national level,” he noted.
Prof. Karikari had earlier called on media stakeholders including owners and journalists to consider a push for the reform of sections of the criminal code that appears to be the basis of many recent arrests of journalists in the country.