President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said there is no culture of silence prevailing in the country under his administration, and there exists a vibrant media.
According to President Akufo-Addo, “I find it ironic that the Presidency of a man who has been and continues to be the most vilified political figure of his generation can be accused of presiding over a ‘culture of silence’. There is no midnight knock on the door in Ghana for authors of dissenting views, nor will there be during my presidency.”
With Twitter having described Ghana as “a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet”, as some of the reasons for setting up shop in Ghana, the President noted that these same qualities possessed by Ghana also influenced the decision by the Federation of African Journalists to announce the holding of its annual conference in Ghana, because of the country’s attachment to a culture and practice of free media.
Speaking at the University of Cape Coast, on Saturday, 29th May 2021, at a ceremony held to confer an honorary doctorate degree on him, President Akufo-Addo noted that he has, all his life, been a firm believer in constitutional government.
This, he explained, has been based on freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of the media, the separation of powers with an independent Judiciary, the rule of law, a strong and dynamic Parliament, and a private sector that unleashes the energies of the people to prosper.
“The Criminal Libel Law, which had been part of our legal architecture for decades, did not just suddenly disappear from our laws. I have been a part and, sometimes, led the struggle for individual rights and freedom of the press in this country. I believe in it. It is part of my makeup, and, when it comes to the freedom of the press, I am certain I have nothing to apologise for with reference to anything I have ever done or said,” he added.
He indicated that, from the beginning of his term in office, he has tried to strengthen the institutions of state that would give meaning to the protection of the freedoms of Ghanaians.
“More infrastructural development funds have been allocated to the Judiciary in the past four years than we have ever seen, and it has gone along with human resource development. Budgetary allocations to the Police Service, CHRAJ, NCCE, and Parliament have all been increased significantly and deliberately to boost up the capacities of these institutions,” President Akufo-Addo said.
He continued, “The Right to Information Act has been passed under my Presidency, and is now in operation, despite successive governments shying away from it. That is how rights and freedoms are protected.”
The President reiterated that, since becoming President, there is nothing he has seen or experienced in the office that would make him change his long-held views on the importance of fundamental human rights.
“I need no lessons in the importance of a vigorous media in building a healthy democracy. I have said so and I will say it again that I would much rather we had a reckless press, than a supine one,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo noted further that the atmosphere in Ghana, under his presidency, is one of spirited conversation and debate among politicians, the business community, civil society organizations and ordinary citizens – through print, radio, television, or in particular, social media, whether they are home or abroad.
Nonetheless, he stated that it is in the interest of the State, in the interest of the people of Ghana, and in the interest of Government, that journalists are and feel able to go about their work in safety, assuring that “I will continue to do all I can to make this the reality of Ghana.”
No culture of silence
The President noted that there’s a new line of reasoning which suggests that “when people in government and/or government policies are criticised, and there is a defence of the people or policies, it is intimidatory, and leads to a “culture of silence”.
“A radio station is currently running a campaign against Free SHS. During the last election, I got the clear impression Free SHS had been endorsed by all political parties, and all we needed to do was to keep improving it. Would a spirited defence of the Free SHS policy constitute an attack on press freedom? I wonder,” he asked.
He added that “it cannot be that everyone has a right of reply except members of the government and officialdom. Nor can it be that challenging an opinion expressed by a journalist constitutes an attack on press freedom.”
What, President Akufo-Addo believes, may be lacking sorely in the Ghanaian society today is the need to listen to each other more, emphasising that “knowledge has never been a gift granted exclusively to one group. We must listen, and hear each other more.”