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Opinions of Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Columnist: Amponsah, Jerry

Akufo Addo: A Co-parent of Ghana’s Press Freedom

The Ghanaian media currently enjoys an unprecedented full freedom which has made it very vibrant. Many journalists today have revived their careers and as a result have created vibrant news media, which offers pertinent, excellent critical political commentaries. This flourishing media industry has proven that Ghana is truly a country of great talents. It is today a jungle of patronage.

Sometimes history creeps in; this is where we come in.

The first sub-Saharan country to gain independence in the jazzman’s eye has become a Mecca of talent and ambition. We can now boast of our professional sons —like Komla Dumor and Akwasi Sarpong — who are now with the BBC, competently muscling their way into the international level.

The anti-press stigma, from the days of the P(NDC) and its military umbilical attachment, has subsided. What happened to Ato Kwamina Dadzie and Adom FM of the Multi Media Group is an obvious move by the NDC to dilute the issue of clamping down on the freedom of the press. The P(NDC) once made the media industry a lion’s den – a no go area.

Nobody can keep away from the truth. From the then military dictatorship, to our present day freedom of speech, the country’s media has grown into a floodtide of integrity, and arriviste, Akufo Addo, has turned Ghana’s media from dumbos into parrots of truth rather than propaganda. He has turned the media into a purveyor of truth. Indeed, he is one of the harbingers of today’s Ghana’s media success.

After successfully completing his education abroad and landing a lucrative job with a highfalutin salary, he shoved it off, and chose to return and fight for Ghana. Though he was in exile on two different occasions, he stood firmly for the country. With an attitude of “gung-ho,” he stood firmly against military dictatorship, and fought for human rights and individual freedoms. This, he considered a deadline to a lifeline. He was both a champion of and remains a highly vocal activist on human rights. He was also part of the advocacy group. His voice was dominant in the fight for press freedom. He fought a media war, a war of ideas.

Much of today’s media credit must go to Nana Addo, who refused to surrender. He was courageous and dedicated, and put his macadam on every cow path. His immense efforts led to the establishment of a free, private press. Most media entities are owned by private individuals. His effort was to impress upon the dictatorial government, and to turn the press into a representative barometer of democracy. As such, he mounted a vigorous campaign for press freedom. It was an unprecedented demonstration by Akufo Addo and his pressure group. It was a touchstone for journalists in the struggle for press freedom. He became manic, and galvanized a variety of forces to press for journalists’ freedom.

We must not confuse freedom, with freedom to say or unite. Nana Addo’s brilliance, and tuxedo-clad front man for press freedom, began as a young man peddling the songs of democracy. He was eager and ready to bleed subcutaneously for a good cause. His aim was to ensure that the media receive equitable access and treatment, and also to ensure that political victims were no longer to be kept secret. Secrecy kills! He has been one of the most critical of media advocates. He has successfully played the wolf; and, it is now time that he should be measured with sheep clothing.

It is no telling how far Akufo Addo’s efforts have resulted in numerous outlets for anyone to express one’s self freely and openly. His commitment yesterday has projected the media of today.

Ghana, our beloved country lost large segments of the local press corps in the face of intimidations and threats. The then government’s heavy-handed repression forced state- employed journalists out of their professions. Ghanaians journalists held, incommunicado, without charges. Our country’s high number of talented journalists fled the country, after being threatened, assaulted, or imprisoned, leaving a deep void and vacuum in professional reporting. The decimation of Ghanaian journalists – by assassinations or through exile – reduced the quality of news coming out of the country. Critical editors and reporters were jailed without trail, and were held in secret locations.

There was no incentive for in-depth reporting or investigative journalism anymore, as it could land one in trouble with the authorities. Independence of journalism was harmed. Security forces were used to openly harass media outlets. Government harassment played a considerable role in Ghana, causing a good number of journalists to flee the country. Many of these refugees faced great challenges, grave risks and unbearable psychological pressure. Journalism became the riskiest profession in Ghana; it was likened to a lion’s den. It took some of our journalists, years to re-establish themselves professionally and to secure sound economic footings for their families. Many even had to abandon journalism as a career. Vulnerable press men and women were living in a culture of silence and intimidation. Today, if Anas Amereyaw Anas, could do creatively well, and boast as ace investigative journalist, then we need not forget one of those who made it possible for him.

Ex-president J.J. Rawlings did his best to control the flow of Information, but there were so many leaks in the bucket, it was more than a watering can. Ghanaian’s undeniably attest to the fact that the Akyem aristocrat has done enough to bring our mother country back to its freedom of speech, press freedom, and the democracy that today’s politicians, press men and women, rich and poor, and even children, now enjoy.

God bless Ghana!

Jerry Amponsah (Sabbato) Communication Group NPP New York