Former President John Dramani Mahama has warned that Ghana’s massive slump in the world ranking on press freedom is a wake up call to all that there is a clear and present danger to Ghana’s iconic press culture.
In a solidarity message to mark this year’s world press freedom day, the former President whose administration is credited with making Ghana’s media the freest in Africa warns that press freedom is not given, but taken, and that the recent rating of Ghana is indicative of the fact that there is a clear and present danger to worry about.
“According to Reporters Without Borders, during my Presidency, Ghana became the country with the highest levels of press freedom in Africa. At the time, we were ranked number one out of 54 countries in Africa. We placed 23rd on the global ranking among 180 countries.
“Three and half years later, we have slumped seven places on the global ranking and lost the number one spot in Africa to Namibia and Cape Verde. We have unfortunately lost this priceless status that made all of us very proud,” he said, adding that press freedom is not a given and must, therefore, be appreciated especially as the “Covid-19 pandemic tempts some governments around the world to want to curtail the liberties of citizens.”
Specifically speaking on Ghana, the former President lamented the “dictatorial withdrawal of radio frequencies and closure of radio stations by the Akufo-Addo government.”
He also decried the open targeting journalists by the regime and the killing of some journalists at the behest of people within the ruling party.
Ghana’s media, which was ranked the freest in the whole of Africa and 18th freest in the world by Reporters Without Borders during the previous Mahama Administration, sunk 7 places in the latest rankings.
In Africa, the country lost its top spot to Namibia and Cape Verde. Even so, many have said the rankings are generous because of the atrocities that the Akufo-Addo Government is perceived to have visited on journalists in the three years that it has been in office.
Among others, journalists with online new site, ModernGhana.com, were last year waylaid in their office premises, blindfolded and shoved into a car by National Security operatives at the behest of the National Security Minister, Albert Kan Dapaah.
Their crime was that their site had published a third party feature on Dapaah’s ambition to become President of Ghana after President Akufo-Addo.
The journalists were crammed into a cell and tortured for days before public outcry forced National Security to release them.
Another journalist, Manasseh Awuni Azure, was forced to flee the country after regime goons and hirelings of the ruling party attempted to murder him for doing an investigative story detailing President Akufo-Addo’s cede of the Castle, an annex of the Presidency to an NPP party goon squad called De-Eye.
As for Ahmed Hussein Suale of Tiger Eye PI, he was murdered in broad day light at Madina for contributing to an investigative piece that revealed that disgraced former President of the Ghana Football Association, Kwesi Nyantakyi, had been taking bribes, and per Mr. Nyantakyi’s own confession, been sharing it with President Akufo-Addo and Vice President Bawumia.
At the behest of Kennedy Agyepong, a powerful bankroller of the ruling NPP, Ahmed Suale was shot by gunmen on motorcycle while he was stuck in traffic at Madina.
The Akufo-Addo Government has also closed down radio stations that are perceived to be sympathetic to the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and in fascist fashion, refused to allow them back on air.
Former President Mahama said people must also “condemn the killing of journalists like Ahmed Suale, as well as the harassment of Manasseh Azure and Edward Adeti.”
The NDC flagbearer for 2020 however also used the occasion to celebrate Ghanaian journalists. “We owe it to our great and hardworking journalists – but, first and foremost, we owe it to ourselves.
“I celebrate the men and women of the press in Ghana and across the globe. The threat of COVID-19 has not daunted your undying spirits. The pandemic has not prevented you from going at great, and sometimes risky lengths to bring us the stories.
“You have been at the frontline of the fight against the disease. We are grateful to our pressmen and women,” he said.