Partner Parliament to fight press freedom violations – Speaker urges media

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has urged media practitioners to join hands with the legislature to fight against the violations of press freedom and freedom of expression by the political class.

Such stance, he said, had become critical at a time when the publication of the annual Press Freedom Index report always showed a worrying decline in press freedom index in the country.

“As much as we hold and pride ourselves as being a model of press freedom in Africa, it does not look like we are a model,” he said.

During a meeting with management and the editorial team of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) in Accra yesterday, Mr Bagbin said:

“The decline in press freedom is so sharp and we do not need the annual Press Freedom Index to tell us that we are not doing well since we experience violations on a daily basis.”

“It was not for nothing that the framers of the Constitution took copious time to detail out the role and function of the media in a democracy,” he said.

The Speaker’s visit was to discuss how Parliament, GCGL and the media in general could partner to enhance press freedom and work together to promote activities earmarked for the 30th anniversary celebration of Parliament.

At the meeting were the Managing Director of the GCGL, Ato Afful; the Editor, Graphic, Theophilus Yartey; the Director, Finance, Samuel Essel; the News Editor, Samuel Doe Ablordepey; the Night Editor, Samuel Bio, the Editor of Graphic Digital, Enoch Darfah Frimpong; the Corporate Communications Manager, Emmanuel Arthur, and other members of the editorial team.

The Speaker was accompanied by the Chief of Staff to the Speaker, Kofi Attor; Communications Expert to the Speaker, Gayheart Mensah, and other staff.

Claim your right

The Speaker pointed out that there were adequate provisions in the Constitution on how the media must operate.

He, however, said that unfortunately the political class seemed not to appreciate and understand those constitutional provisions, leading to what he described as unacceptable violations of press freedom.

“Press freedom and freedom of expression seem to have been clogged by politicians and we need to fight it because as for rights they are not given.

“The word we use in law is you have to claim it.

So, if they say this is your right and you go to sleep and think that somebody will give it to you on a silver platter, you will never get it.

You have to stand up and claim it,” he explained.

He indicated that because the law was on the side of media practitioners in terms of the practice of their profession, “you will always win because you are doing the right thing.”

He revealed that he decided to call on management and the editorial team of the Daily Graphic to “decide how we can take the violation of press freedom seriously.”

Election auctions

Dwelling on monetisation of elections in Ghana, Mr Bagbin said there was reality today where many people considered that the fastest means to get rich was for one to become a politician.

Consequently, he said most elections had been turned into auctions in which the highest bidder won the highest votes cast.

“And so, you recently heard people saying that why don’t you kill your MP and there will be a by-election and you will get development,” he said.

Such negative orientation, he said, had triggered what he described as a mad rush for people to get into politics.

“And the fastest means is to amass wealth outside and get in through buying your votes and then you are in Parliament,” he observed, questioning the value those with the means to buy their way to Parliament added to the legislative process.

“They add nothing because your focus is not to serve but your focus is to enrich yourself,” he said.

He, therefore, urged the media to collaborate with Parliament to use its 30th anniversary to educate the people on such negative political orientation.

New initiatives

The Speaker highlighted the various initiatives Parliament had undertaken so far to make it more vibrant and accessible.

He made mention of a “Citizens Bureau” which is meant to bring on board the media, civil society and think tanks to help in cataloguing developments about Parliament.

He also hinted on possible passage of a new Standing Order that would open all meetings of committees of Parliament to the media to enrich the acquisition of experience and knowledge of reporters.

“We are also establishing a Parliamentary Museum to display the journey of Parliament so that when you pass through it, particularly the new generation, you will understand why we are here,” he said.