57% of Ghanaians support gov’t interference in media – Report

Government interference in media organisations in certain instances is acceptable in the eyes of 57 percent of Ghanaians, according to an Afrobarometer survey.

The report noted that for the first time, support for total press freedom in the 34 countries surveyed was declining.

On average, 47 percent agreed or agreed very strongly with the statement supporting media freedom.

On the other hand, 49 percent of the surveyed persons supported the government’s right to limit certain media messages.

Only 4 percent of the respondents chose to agree with neither statement, refuse to respond, or say they didn’t know, according to the report.

In Ghana, only 36 percent of respondents were in favour of the media being free to publish or run stories with the remaining 57% according to the report thinking otherwise.

57% of the respondents were of the view that government should have the right to prevent publication of stories.

This is some 26 years after Ghana entered its fourth republic.

Prior to 1993, there only the state-owned radio and television network operated by the Ghana Broadcasting Co-operation (GBC).

There were also state-owned Ghanaian Times and Daily Graphic which joined the GBC in enjoying a monopoly.

But as this survey notes, the nature of news dissemination has changed with the reliance on the Internet and social media for news “increasing rapidly”.

“Almost one in five Africans say they use the Internet (18%) and/or social media (19%) daily for news,” the survey indicated.

But radio remains the top source for mass-media news, with many more outlets than in 1993.

The National Communications authority had granted at least 471 authorisations as of 2017.

Since 2011, Afrobarometer has used three survey rounds to ask respondents to choose sides on questions of if the media should have the right to publish any views and ideas without government control or if the government should have the right to prevent the media from publishing things that “it considers harmful to society.”

Ghana’s Freedom of the Press score is five points worse in 2016 than in 2011. Nonetheless, 62 percent of Ghanaians see media freedoms as having improved in recent years whilst 24 percent say it has remained the same and 21 percent say there has been less media freedom between 2016 and 2018.

In the list of 34 countries, Ghana had the seventh highest rate of people leaning towards government interference in the press.

Senegal led the list with Mali, Cameroon, Gambia, Liberia and Lesotho following.

Support for media freedom is lowest in West Africa, which was the only region where a majority supported governments’ right to prevent publications.

With respect to the general drop in support for press freedom, the report noted that “we see this trend even though Africans offer unequivocal backing for the media’s watchdog role over the government.”

“In response to a question asked in Round 6 (2014/2015) but not repeated in the most recent survey round, more than two-thirds (69%) of respondents said the news media should ‘constantly investigate and report on government mistakes and corruption.’ In addition, 59% said the news media are “somewhat effective” or “very effective” in revealing government mistakes and corruption, and a slim majority (51%) said the media ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ abuse their freedom by publishing lies (though a substantial 36% said they do so ‘often’ or ‘alway’”) (Nkomo & Wafula, 2016).”

The report also noted the targeting of journalist citing Cameroonian journalist Ahmed Abba, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for purportedly promoting terrorism in 2015.

He was released in late 2017, after 876 days in detention, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

More tragic, however, the report also noted the January 2019 murder of Ghanaian journalist Ahmed Hussein-Suale, an investigator with Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ Tiger Eye PI.

Ghana has lost its status as Africa’s best-ranked country in the World Press Freedom Index following the murder of Ahmed Hussein-Suale, an investigator with Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ Tiger Eye PI.

Hussein-Suale, who had collaborated with the BBC in his work with Anas, was shot dead near his family home at Madina by two gunmen some months after investive work on corruption in Ghana football.

The murder was after his identity was made public by Assin Central MP, Kennedy Agyapong.

This murder was also highlighted by Reporters Without Borders in its World Press Freedom Index

Ghana dropped from 23 to 27 in the world following the latest ranking thus losing its ranking as Africa’s highest-rated country.

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