Ghana drops in World Press Freedom Index for a consecutive 3-years in a row, ranks 62nd out of 180 countries.
Article by: Akumun Emmanuel
Ghana, a country widely recognized as one of the most democratic countries in Africa, has experienced a worrying decline in press freedom in recent years. According to the World Press Freedom Index, published annually by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Ghana has dropped for the third consecutive year, ranking 62nd out of 180 countries in 2023, a significant drop from its position as 30th in 2021. This decline is alarming and calls for urgent action to safeguard the country's democratic principles.
One of the many issues facing the media in Ghana is the lack of funding to cover all sorts of news, including climate and environmental issues. Climate change is one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time, and Ghana, like many other countries, is feeling its impact. Unfortunately, most journalists and media houses in Ghana lack the necessary training and skills to report effectively on climate change issues. This has led to limited coverage of environmental issues and a lack of awareness among the public on the urgency of taking action to address climate change. Many media organizations struggle to stay afloat due to a lack of resources and funding. As a result, they are often unable to cover environmental stories, which are critical for raising awareness and mobilizing action to address environmental challenges. This has created a gap in environmental reporting, making it difficult for the public to stay informed about issues that affect their lives and the environment. Therefore, Center for Sustainable Transformation (CeST), specifically through her Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) program, is working with young people in building capacity to fill this gap through our own media channels as well as in collaboration with established media houses - but more needs to be done.
YRE Ghana conducting an interview about Plastic Free Schools// 2023
Poor remuneration of journalists is also a significant issue in Ghana. Many journalists work under difficult conditions and earn meager salaries, making it difficult for them to make ends meet. This has led to a decline in the quality of reporting, as journalists struggle to balance their work with other responsibilities. Some journalists have been known to accept bribes, which compromise their professionalism and independence, and undermine public trust in the media.
Also, violence towards reporters is also a rising concern in Ghana. Journalists face threats, harassment, and physical attacks from politicians, security agencies, and other interest groups, which seek to silence critical voices. In some cases, journalists have been killed in the line of duty, and their killers have gone unpunished. Like the January 16, 2019, murder of Ghanaian journalist, Ahmed Hussein-Suale Divela, who was gunned down by unidentified men months after threats by a local politician. Despite the government’s assurance to find the killers and bring them to justice, nobody has been tried or convicted in the journalist’s murder after four years. This lack of accountability sends a chilling message to journalists and undermines their ability to report freely and fearlessly.
To address these challenges, there is a need for urgent action by all stakeholders. The government should prioritize media development and invest in training and capacity building programs to equip journalists with the necessary skills to report on climate change and environmental issues. It should also create an enabling environment for the media to operate freely and independently, without fear of intimidation or harassment.
Media organizations should also explore innovative ways to fund their operations and provide better remuneration for journalists. This would help to attract and retain talented reporters, improve the quality of reporting and reduce the risks of compromising professional standards.
Finally, all stakeholders should work together to condemn violence against journalists and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. This would help to create a safer environment for journalists to operate freely and without fear of intimidation or harassment.
Ghana's decline in the World Press Freedom Index is a cause for concern. The challenges facing the media in Ghana are numerous, including a declining knowledge and capacity base, lack of funding to cover all sorts of news, poor remuneration of journalists, and violence towards reporters. However, these challenges can be addressed through collaborative efforts by all stakeholders, including the government, media organizations, civil society, and the international community. The time to act is now to safeguard Ghana's democratic principles and promote media freedom in the country.