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Opinions of Thursday, 4 May 2017

Columnist: Kafui Thompson

Must we tolerate irresponsible journalists to safeguard freedom expression in Ghana?

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Yesterday was International Press Freedom Day. It was marked extensively across the nation by media houses - and quite rightly so.

Speaking personally, one took the liberty of listening to some of the interviews conducted by a number of radio stations that focused on the standard and quality of the output of media houses and journalists.

This blog was alarmed that the many sins of the few irresponsible journalists and unethical media houses that form part of Ghana's media landscape seemed to exercise so many minds - and seemed to generate calls for legislation to curb irresponsible journalism.

In light of the casualties sustained in the long, relentless and determined fight for the restoration of the right to freedom of expression in our country - that culminated in finally bringing an end to the days of the culture of silence in Ghana - we must never make the mistake of providing future despots with the building-blocks for instituting tomorrow's tyranny successfully.

In response to those who want to give it more powers, this blog is of the view that as a people we do not need to provide any more additional powers for the National Media Commission to enable it somehow control the media in Ghana more effectively That is totally unnecessary.

After all, is public opprobrium not a powerful enough deterrent to contain the excesses of irresponsible journalists and mercenary media houses?

Some of us will never forget the fact that decades ago, a number of prominent media personalities such as Tommy Thompson ended up sacrificing their lives in that fight for freedom of expression in Ghana - whiles others like the Kweku Baakos, the Kwesi Pratts and the Kabral Blay-Amiheres were incacerated for their defiance of the authorities.

It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Indeed.

Far better that we tolerate the yellow journalism of the relatively few irresponsible journalists and mercenary media houses in our homeland Ghana, today, than agree to the passage of well-meant laws that the secret enemies of democracy will pounce on whenever it suits their purposes.

Today, we might be lucky to have a crop of sincere politicians who are genuinely committed to democracy and will always be supportive of individuals and organisations dedicated to protecting freedom of expression in Ghana.

But what happens - at some point in time in the distant future - when Ghanaians are lumbered with super-ruthless and powerful extremist-politicians who in order to consolidate their hold on power decide to use those selfsame laws passed with the best of intentions: to either muzzle sections of the media opposed to them or effectively close down media houses constantly shining the spotlight on their regime?

Alas, to safeguard freedom of expression in Ghanaian society, we must perforce tolerate the few irresponsible journalists in the midst of our nation's fraternity of media professionals, and of necessity put up with the mendacity of the unethical media houses they often work for (that Martin Amidu once famously referred to as the "rented press").

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