Freedom of the press should not only be marked but celebrated and cherished as a vital and fundamental ingredient of democracy.
Without freedom of the press, we would all be silent; we would not be free citizens, but mere subjects controlled by whoever happens to be in power.
Freedom of the press is not a given; we should always remember that, and especially now, when the COVID-19 pandemic tempts some governments around the world to want to curtail the liberties of citizens.
Just as the press performs a civic service to all of us, we also have a civic duty towards it- namely, to always defend and be ready to fight for the freedom of the press.
According to Reporters Without Borders, during my Presidency, Ghana became the country with the highest levels of press freedom in Africa. At the time, we were ranked number one out of 54 countries in Africa. We placed 23rd on the global ranking among 180 countries.
Three and half years later, we have slumped seven places on the global ranking and lost the number one spot in Africa to Namibia and Cape Verde. We have unfortunately lost this priceless status that made all of us very proud.
This should worry us- not only journalists and media owners but all of us, as citizens and as Ghanaians.
As I said, when the freedom of the press is curtailed, democracy suffers. And all the other human rights that anchor our dignity as human beings are eroded.
Without freedom, our dignity is trampled. This is why we need a free press as much as we need fresh air to breathe.
So, let us all protect the freedom of the press.
Let us condemn the killing of journalists like Ahmed Suale, as well as the harassment of Manasseh Azure and Edward Adeti.
Let us rise up and speak against the dictatorial withdrawal of radio frequencies and closure of radio stations by the government of Nana Akufo-Addo.
Let us remind and demand of government to stop paying lip service to the Right to Information Act.
Let’s encourage, cherish and always expand the frontiers of Freedom of the Press in this digital world.
We owe it to our great and hardworking journalists – but, first and foremost, we owe it to ourselves.
I celebrate the men and women of the press in Ghana and across the globe. The threat of COVID-19 has not daunted your undying spirits. The pandemic has not prevented you from going at great; and sometimes risky lengths to bring us the stories.
You have been at the frontline of the fight against the disease. We are grateful to our press men and women.
May God bless Ghanaian journalists– and journalists, all over the world.
May we all rededicate ourselves to restoring Ghana’s once enviable position as number one in press freedom in Africa.
May God continue to bless our Homeland Ghana.
John Dramani Mahama
May 03, 2020.