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Monday, January 30, 2023

We cannot be lovers of freedom of expression in opposition and oppress it in government: Hashmin Writes

The news that Ghana’s press freedom ranking has dropped from 30th to 60th position in the world, must be very worrying to all those who care about Democracy promotion in the country.

Especially when Reporters without Borders has noted in their reports that, for journalists, to protect their jobs and their security, “they increasingly resort to self-censorship, as the government shows itself intolerant of criticism.

Indeed this has not come as a surprise to some of us because a government that fears accountability would choose the path of oppression to instill fear in critical voices.

Throughout the history of Ghana, political parties that have transitioned from opposition to governments with the benefits of media works turned to hate it.

This government is under so much pressure from Ghanaians after making so many promises which are very difficult to fulfill and the media have become very critical of them.

In the global south conglomerates and despot, leaders, use several tools to censor the editorial opinion of some journalists:

1. First, they come to the media as friends, using the tool of bribery. If that fails

2. They choose a second option rewarding them with political appointments mostly in the global south.

If the second option also fails,

3. They go for a third tool, plot (blackmail) If that also doesn’t work

4. The fourth weapon is violence and intimidation ( assassination) inclusive to instill fear in the media.

If there is public anger and protest against such brute force.

5. The last weapon is the use of regulation to censor the media completely.

Apart from point 1, we have witnessed points 2-5, from 2017-to 2022 in Ghana, and there are more than enough examples that can be attached to each point stated above.

So if I say I’m not surprised by this our worst press freedom ranking in 17yrs, the above-stated are my reasons.

Look in Ghana, and several other developing countries, the converging place between the state and its citizenry is the media. When citizens are disgruntled they run to the media to aid them in getting their grievances to state actors for a solution. I.e if there is a water shortage in a community residents would call on the media to get their message through to authorities.

When state actors feel the citizenry is not living up to their responsibility to the state they use the media to carry out education.

This tells you the important role the media plays in our democracy and we must encourage the media to play their public service role devoid of fear for their lives.

When free media and freedom of expression die, Democracy also dies in our country. Imagine a day without the media or Journalists in your life, especially in this country where our institutions are failing us.

We cannot be lovers of freedom of expression and free media in opposition and turn to oppress it in government.

The writer Hashmin Mohammed is communications, media, and development specialist.

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