Freedom of the Press
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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)
Ghana’s press continued to be one of the freest in Africa in 2006. Freedom of the press is guaranteed by law, and the 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 criminal libel legislation. A subsequent spate of civil libel cases brought by former public officials and private citizens against media outlets with cripplingly high fines—often in excess of US$100,000—took the place of criminal defamation charges. Nonetheless, despite a number of new libel suits during the year, this trend abated slightly in 2006 as no new convictions were reported.
A proposal in Parliament for the establishment of a presidential commission for reforms that would strengthen the editorial independence and guarantee the funding of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) under an act of Parliament was unlikely to gain much traction. The proposal was made by Member of Parliament Haruna Idrissu, who argued that access to information leads to greater public transparency, accountability, and good governance. But the minister in charge of government sector reform responded that although reform was necessary at the GBC, there was no need for a presidential commission to do so and that such reforms could be addressed under the Subvented Agencies Law, which covers the GBC. Ghana has yet to pass legislation protecting freedom of information. A civil society initiative in 1997 brought the need for such a bill to the nation’s attention, but neither the president nor the Parliament has taken any action as yet.
The press is generally free to function independently, with private newspapers and broadcasters operating without any significant restrictions. The environment includes a lively private press that often carries criticisms of the government. Animated phone-ins on local radio broadcasts are also a staple of daily life in Ghana. However, the Media Foundation of West Africa did report an increase in the number of cases of harassment against journalists by nonstate actors; 18 such cases were reported by the foundation in 2006. In particular, several journalists were targeted by supporters of drug barons on trial for large cocaine scandals, and a few other journalists were the victims of violent harassment at the hands of police officers while covering the news.
More than 135 newspapers, including 2 state-owned dailies, publish in Ghana, and approximately 110 FM radio stations function nationwide, 11 of which are state run; 27 television stations operate in Ghana. Opponents of the government complain of biased coverage in the state-owned press, but independent and critical reporting is pervasive in the private sector. Radio remains the most popular medium. Poor pay and unprofessional conduct, including newspapers that invent highly sensationalist news stories, remain problematic. The ethical lapses are condemned by professional media bodies because they undermine media credibility. 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 British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio France Internationale, and Voice of America. Access to the internet is available to less than 2 percent of the population, primarily through internet cafés, and remains unrestricted by the government.