Freedom of the Press
You are here
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Freedom of the press is guaranteed by law, and the Ghanaian government has a reputation within the region for respecting it in practice. In recent years, President John Kufuor's administration has demonstrated its desire to expand freedom of expression by repealing the criminal libel laws. Nonetheless, this achievement has been accompanied by a remarkable increase in the number of civil libel cases brought by former public officials and private citizens against media outlets. In cases too numerous to list, the courts have imposed fines often in excess of $100,000, prompting press unions like the Ghana Journalists Association to warn that the fines will chill the climate for free expression and lead to increased self-censorship. In one such case, the weekly Ghana Palaver was ordered by the high court in Accra to pay $165,000 in damages to Ghana's minister of state of works and housing for an article it published in November 2004 accusing the minister of corruption.
The media are independent, and debates about public policy, including scrutiny of the president, are vigorous and robust. In August, President Kufuor met with the press in an open question-and-answer session for only the third time since 2001. During the session, which lasted more than two hours, the president answered questions about controversial issues, including allegations of impropriety in the sale of a private hotel complex; the status of the Freedom of Information Bill; and charges of nepotism in appointments to political offices. Nonetheless, in 2005 journalists experienced a number of assaults and arrests while trying to cover the news. In July, a television crew was detained at the president's residence for filming a neighboring property that was allegedly purchased by the president in his son's name using illegally obtained funds. In November, a journalist was assaulted by unidentified assailants, possibly in response to his investigation of presidential corruption.
As of September 2005, the national media commission reported that more than 90 newspapers, 27 television stations, and over 140 radio stations were registered in Ghana. At least 11 of the radio stations are owned by the state, while most of the newspapers with national distribution are government controlled as well. Opponents of the government complain of biased coverage in the state-owned press, but independent and critical reporting is pervasive in the private sector. In particular, private radio stations have opened the airwaves to robust and often intense criticism of government officials. Poorly paid journalists frequently engage in unprofessional conduct, as is the case with many newspapers that invent highly sensationalist news stories. Although these practices are condemned by professional media bodies, ethical lapses on the part of the press undermine media credibility. Also, limited revenue from advertising and reader subscriptions threatens the financial viability of private media outlets. Foreign media presence is highly visible, most notably through broadcasts from the BBC, Radio France Internationale, and the Voice of America. Access to the internet is available primarily through internet cafés and remains unrestricted by the government.