Ghana | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Ghana

Ghana

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

27

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

10

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

9

Ghana’s reputation as a country with unfettered freedom of expression was not seriously threatened in 2007. However, there were some worrying signs involving the activities of nonstate actors, the overzealousness of presidential security guards, and clumsiness in managing press access to public events that could collectively sully Ghana’s image. Freedom of the press is guaranteed by law, and the government generally respects 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—the only country West African country to do so. Nonetheless, there has been a spate of civil libel cases with cripplingly high fines brought by former public officials and private citizens against media outlets in the past few years. Only one such case occurred in 2007, while a few other cases were dropped by the government during the year. In January, the courts ordered Militant Publications, the producer of the newspaper Insight, to pay US$13,000 to the minister of water resources, works, and housing, for defaming him in an article three years earlier. As President Kufuor enters the final year of his last term in office in 2008, a push is under way by media interest groups to have the government pass a promised freedom of information bill. In May, the Freedom of Information Coalition–Ghana launched a campaign to do this under Article 21(f) of the 1992 constitution, which guarantees the right to information. Government ministers have said the bill will be submitted to parliament once reviews of measures to make it enforceable and practicable are complete.

Meanwhile, however, a number of disturbing incidents during the year alarmed the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA). These include the April murder of Samuel Kwabena Eninn, editor of Ashh FM and chairman of the GJA in the Ashanti region. The police suspected robbery as a motive and announced a US$2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of his killers. At the end of the year, no one had been arrested and there was still no evidence that the incident was linked to Eninn’s work. Separately, Henry Addo, an investigative journalist for an independent television station, was attacked in Accra by a group of vigilantes. Charges of rough handling of media personnel were leveled in April against President Kufuor’s security detail by journalists who said they were barred from covering the president’s visit to flooded areas in the north. In response to the outcry following incidents of local police harassment of journalists in 2006, Ghana’s Inspector General of the Police announced in February that the police would work to ensure that the rights of journalists were more fully respected. However, in July, more than 500 local and foreign journalists were barred from the conference hall of the African Union Summit in Accra during the opening session of the gathering. Guards providing security for the visiting African heads of state were also accused of roughing up reporters. Protocol officials claimed that restrictions on press access to the summit were due to security concerns. Following protests, the Ghana deputy minister of information apologized for lapses in arrangements for press coverage. Other complaints about access restrictions were made by sports journalists who said they were prevented from getting direct access to football players and coaches at the ends of matches. No investigations were conducted during the year into any of the incidents of harassment of journalists that took place in 2006. In a sign of politicization ahead of the 2008 presidential election, in December the Ashanti regional chapter of the GJA condemned as unprofessional the endorsement of presidential candidate Alan John Kyerematen by another group of journalists calling itself Media Friends of Alan.

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; there are 27 television stations in operation. Radio remains the most popular medium. Poor pay and unprofessional conduct, including newspapers that fabricate highly sensationalist news stories, remain problematic. Limited revenue from advertising and reader subscriptions threatens the financial viability of private media outlets. Journalists regularly complain about the bias they experience when applying for a license to open a media outlet, particularly those in the broadcast sector. Some have even applied for licenses as far back as 2000 and have yet to receive a response. Foreign media content is widely available, including broadcasts from the British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio France Internationale, and Voice of America. Access to the internet is growing. About 2.7 percent of the population used the medium in 2007, primarily through internet cafés.