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Principles of democratic accountability, respect for individual liberties and human rights, and the rule of law

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has commended Ghana's media for its commitment to the principles of democratic accountability, respect for individual liberties and human rights, and the rule of law.

Speaking at the World Press Freedom Day Awards Dinner in Accra on Wednesday, President Akufo-Addo noted that Ghanaians were committed to defending the right to free speech and expression, as they had resolved to build a free and open society with accountable governance and that the media's penchant for enriching the nation’s governance with its curiosity, investigative skills and persistence could not be overlooked, but recognized.

Mahmoud Abu Zeid, an imprisoned Egyptian photojournalist, known as Shawkan was awarded the World Press Freedom Prize by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Mr Zeid was jailed since August 2013, after he was arrested in Cairo, while covering a demonstration at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square.

The President said it was out of this commitment that the country continued to produce intrepid and respectable media practitioners such as Elizabeth Ohene, Tommy Thompson, Eben Quarcoo, Kabral Blay Amihere, Kofi Coomson, Kweku Baako, Kwaku Sakyi Addo, Yao Graham, Kwesi Pratt, Gina Blay, Gabby Otchere Darko, Egbert Faible Jnr, Ken Kuranchie, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, Kwami Sefa Kayi, Bernard Avle, and Manasseh Azure Awuni who, he said, had demonstrated fearless commitment to press freedom, no matter the cost.

He also noted that even though Ghana's 4th Republican Constitution expressly guaranteed and recognized freedom of expression—of speech and protection of the press and other media—as fundamental human right, there were still colonial laws that were manifestly anti-libertarian, and repressive of free expression.

President Akufo-Addo recalled that as Attorney General and Minister of Justice under the government of former President John Agyekum Kufuor, he led the process in Parliament for the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law.

He said the repeal had had a very positive impact on the development of the Ghanaian media, freeing it from unnecessary self-censorship and promoting the growth of a robust and critical media—which had won Ghana the reputation of one of the most media-friendly and liberal climates on the continent—and also contributed significantly to the deepening of democracy in Ghana, enhancing public accountability as a strategic goal of public policy.

Some political and media pundits have said they preferred the retention of the Criminal Libel Law, as the repeal of the Law had made some Ghanaian media practitioners reckless and unprofessional in their work.

This, they argued, had damaged and eroded the good name and image of public figures, and endangered society as a whole.

However, President Akufo-Addo contended that as one of the most vilified public figures in some sections of the Ghanaian media, ironically, he was the principal actor who championed the repeal of the law, insisting, “the repeal was necessary in the public interest in our emerging democracy.”

I will say, again, that I much prefer the noisy, boisterous, sometimes scurrilous media of today, to the monotonous, praise-singing, sycophantic one of yesteryear. The Ghanaian media has, in fact, enriched the nation’s governance by its curiosity, investigative skills, and persistence.”

President Akufo-Addo urged media practitioners not to act as a condor, but exhibit the passion with which they had done their work on daily basis, and be guided by the ethics of the profession in other to protect the sanctity of the future of press freedom.

Source: ISD (Rex Mainoo Yeboah)

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