Worrisome Right Violations of Journalists in Ghana as Press Freedom Endures Critical Times

Worrisome Right Violations of Journalists in Ghana as Press Freedom Endures Critical Times

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In 1991, African journalists launched a call for media pluralism and independence by producing the landmark Windhoek Declaration. This led to the recommendation adopted under section 4.3 at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO’s General Conference the same year. That section invited the Director-General of UNESCO to extend to other regions of the world the action taken so far in Africa and Europe; to celebrate the anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration adopted on 3 May 1991; to transmit to the United Nations General Assembly the wish expressed by the Member States of UNESCO to have 3 May declared International Press Freedom Day; and finally, to examine with the United Nations Secretary-General the possibility of issuing a joint report on the progress of-press freedom in the world to mark this day. Two years later, the UN General Assembly proclaimed the World Press Freedom Day, to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

In a 2012 report to the Human Rights Council, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, highlighted the increasing restrictions placed on journalists working outside of armed conflict situations, noting those non-conflict situations are where the majority of human right violations against journalists occur. These range from restrictions to movement, arbitrary detention, torture, intimidation, enforced disappearances and even killings.

Over the past two years, developments in Ghana have painted a dark image of press freedom in the country. They provide a stark picture of the worsening environment for the media across Ghana, in which journalists increasingly face obstruction, hostility and violence, which sometimes leads to loss of life as they investigate and report to the public.

Journalists have been the target of incessant severe attacks. In recent months, there have been targeted and discriminatory enforcement of laws to shut down some media outlets such as Radios Gold and XYZ. The assault on a Joy News cameraman, threats against investigative journalists, attacks on reporters and murder of journalists have created a creepy sense of insecurity for the media in and population of Ghana.

June 27, 2019, marked the latest of a series of alarming events for media freedom in the country as National Security operatives stormed the offices of ModernGhana.com, an online media, and arrested two of its staff. The victims, whose aggressors did not have any warrant, were arrested, blindfolded, and reportedly tortured. On early May 2019, a Journalist with Starr Fm (Edward Adeti) was harassed and threatened with death for exposing the corrupt activities of Hon. Rockson Bukari, a Minister of State at the Presidency. On March 8, 2019, a Multimedia Group investigative journalist (Manasseh Azure Awuni) was threatened, harassed and forced into exile for revealing the clandestine activities of a state-sponsored militia group called ‘De Eye’ at the Osu Castle. On January 16, 2019, an associate of investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas (Ahmed Hussein-Suale) was murdered after being threatened for exposing the corruption that had taken over the high echelons of Ghana football with elements in the 2018 Ghanaian government.

Since late 2017, the MFWA has documented 31 cases of violations against journalists and media houses, summing up to over 40 victims in Ghana. These events are increasingly marring the reputation of a country held up as a safe and democratic model in Africa. According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MWFA), “these developments have the potential of reintroducing the once dreaded culture of silence in the country and affect the capability of the media to be critical players in the growth of the country’s nascent democracy’’.

According to La Rue, “[j]ournalism must be seen as an activity and profession that constitutes a necessary service for any society, as it provides individuals and society as a whole with the necessary information to allow them to develop their own thoughts and to freely draw their own conclusions and opinions”.

Democracy can, undoubtedly, not thrive without press freedom. This growing culture of intolerance for dissenting views are seeds that, if not carefully watched, have the potential to tarnish Ghana’s efforts towards the achievement of an ‘Open’ status on the CIVICUS Monitor – a global online platform that tracks the state of civic freedoms across the world.

According to Civicus Monitor, Ghana is ranked as narrowed; one of the best among West African countries in terms of the respect of human rights freedoms, yet, not the best. Ghana can become ‘Open’, like Cape Verde, if journalists are treated with much more respect and guaranteed their freedoms to exercise their duties. The government of Ghana should refrain from taking actions that encourage the “New Normalisation” of the maltreatment of journalists in the country. It will benefit from truly upholding the fundamental principles of democracy by taking measures that appreciate the importance of a free media, guarantee press freedom, guarantee the security of media practitioners and support media development. One of such measures can be the creation of an enabling environment. The latter can be done by ensuring that the regulatory regimes put in place [in the bid to respond to and comply with international and national obligations] do not shrink civic space or obliterate civil society operations and sustainability.

Perpetrators of such violations must be punished. Personnel of national security organs in Ghana must follow international standards while administering their functions in a way that does not undermine the human rights of journalists.

CSOs and virtual actors are encouraged to massively use social media to condemn the maltreatment of journalists. They are equally encouraged to ensure that legal protections for critical and investigative reporting are strengthened online.

To redress this situation and restore the nation’s bleeding image, the government should be consistent in its engagement towards expanding civic space by facilitating efforts by the media and social movements to pursue profitable social good because these instances complement government’s effort to meet the sustainable development goals.

Finally, media outlets are strongly advised to upgrade their security and develop basic ‘personal security’ rules and measures all their journalists must be cognizant of and apply while exercising their duties.


NOTE: Opinion expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the West Africa Civil Society Institute.

About the author

Metolo Foyet is a post-graduate from the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC). She was an intern for the second batch of 2019 where she served as a Programme Assistant in the Knowledge Management Unit of the West African Civil Society Institute (WACSI).


Metolo Foyet

Metolo Foyet is a post-graduate from the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC). She was an intern for the second batch of 2019 where she served as a Programme Assistant in the Knowledge Management Unit of the West African Civil Society Institute (WACSI).

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Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.


Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.


Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.


Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.


Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.


George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.


Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.


Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.


Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.


Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.


Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.


Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.


Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.


Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.


Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.


Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.


Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.


Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.


Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.


Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.