Mr Abdourahamane Diallo, UNESCO Representative to Ghana, has lauded Ghana’s media for its efforts in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The world is confronting a pandemic, COVID 19. As we speak, countries around the world have introduced measures to contain the spread of coronavirus from strict lockdown, partial to social distancing directives,” Mr Diallo said on Monday in his address mark World Press Freedom Day in Accra.
“On behalf of the UN family in Ghana, I will like to express our profound respect to the government, the scientific community and the media on the systematic approach they have deployed in tackling the spread of the diseases.”
He said UNESCO follows with much admiration the media briefing by the Minister of Information; adding that “it is a lesson in risk communication. Thank you for the timely and reassuring information.”
The event, which was organised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in collaboration with the UNESCO, was on the theme: “Journalism Without Fear or Favour’.
The annual celebration, which fell on Sunday, May 3rd, serves as an occasion to inform citizens of the violations of press freedom.
In 1993, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 3 May as World Press Freedom Day following a recommendation adopted at the 26th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.
“UNESCO believes that a free and independent press is essential at all times, but is particularly important during a health crisis such as the one we are currently experiencing,” Mr Diallo said.
“At a time when many seek information primarily online, the role of professional journalists, is to help sort through the flow and provide necessary guidance. However, it is important to help the media and journalists report on the crisis effectively and safely, and to promote critical thinking to limit the spread of rumours and misinformation.”
He said it is unquestionable to support independent journalism so that media workers can report without fear or favour.
“Newsrooms should be free to make independent editorial decisions that favour public interest and preserve accountability. No crisis can be resolved without accurate and reliable information.”
He said at all levels, from governments to individuals, the decisions they make could be a matter of life and death and must be based on facts and science.
“Today, I wish to call for a redoubling of our efforts. At this crucial moment and for our future, we need a free press, and journalists need to be able to count on all of us.”
Mr Diallo said to keep the public informed journalists were putting their own safety at risk, they face physical attacks, as well as harassment connected to covering the pandemic – such as attacks by mobs as well as abuses by security forces.
He said psychologically, journalists face increased pressure, with extended hours and never-ending fact-checking, fears over job security, and trauma of reporting on severe illnesses; stating that some political leaders had subjected journalists doing critical reporting to harsh verbal attacks.
He said moreover, digital safety, increased surveillance and hacking have undermined journalists’ ability to ensure the confidentiality of their sources.
Mr Diallo said the threats to press freedom and the safety of journalists come at a time when the economic stress of the crisis was pushing many media organisations to the brink of extinction, at exactly the moment they were most needed.
Nana Ama Dokua Asiamah-Adjei, a Deputy of Information Minister, hailed the impeccable role the media is playing in informing, educating and sensitizing the Ghanaians on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Affail Monney, President, GJA, said: “Press freedom is a liberty and not a license – liberty to perform and not license to destroy. The offenders must take note and repent.”
He reiterated the indispensable role the media were playing in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh, Chairman, National Media Commission, cautioned journalists not to allow themselves to be used as conduits for the propagation of fake news.