World Press Freedom Day 2021

The UN Resident Coordinator for Ghana, Mr. Charles Abani statement at the national event in observance of World Press Freedom Day in Accra.

I am highly honored to be with you to mark this important day - World Press Freedom 2021. I thank the Ghana Journalists Association-GJA and UNESCO for organizing this flag-raising ceremony to commemorate this year’s WPFD.

Today, we commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic African Press. The theme for this event; “30 years after the Windhoek declaration: Information as a Public good” reminds us that despite the dramatic changes in the media over the past three decades, the Declaration’s urgent call for press freedom and free access to information is as relevant as ever. The 2021 celebration of press freedom has come at a time when access to credible, reliable information has become significant in our lives.

The world has been grappling with COVID-19 for over a year now. Quite recently, Ghana has seen a decline in its COVID-19 cases especially with the introduction of COVAX vaccines in the country. The media industry across the world has been affected significantly in these times and the Ghanaian media ecosystem is no different. Media institutions and journalists have been impacted greatly, affected by dwindling revenues and layoff of media workers as well as being exposed to COVID in the line of their work as they have sought to educate the public. Additionally, across the world, many journalists have risked their lives in their line of duty, often harassed and detained and some even are killed.

The challenges of COVID-19 have also unleashed the digital transformation everywhere. While this has created many new opportunities to reach hitherto hard to reach communities, the importance of traditional media remains strong, especially for the poor rural populations. As we pivot to embrace digitalization, we must be creative and innovative in focusing on the challenges of maintaining and sustaining a viable, independent and pluralistic media. We must also, however, remain watchful of its potential to spread, instantly, disinformation.

The Ghanaian media has seen tremendous changes and progress over the years with press freedom and access to information and embracing new digital media. I want to use this medium to thank journalists for their professionalism and also charge them to continue to hold the highest standards of ethical journalism, avoiding sensationalism and inciteful language. Ghana is a peaceful country – almost an oasis in the sub-region. The responsibility of maintaining that precious peace falls heavily on many constituencies – the media is at the core of this.   Let me also thank UNESCO, the UN institution with the mandate to “promote the free flow of ideas by word and image” by striving to foster freedom of expression, media development, and access to information and knowledge, for supporting the Ghanaian media ecosystem in this endeavor. Indeed, this puts into action the UN Country Team’s vision to “collectively leverage development resources and partnerships in support of inclusive, sustainable and equitable development for all in Ghana.”

This is the opportunity to remind that we collectively bring our support to the government through the United Nation Sustainable Development Partnership UNSDP (2018-2022). We have just concluded last week consultation with the government to approve jointly the 2020 report and reflect on the 2021-2022 priorities. The responses to the media ecosystems fall under Pilar 4 of Inclusive Accountable Governance.  This celebration comes timely to remind us of some key priorities to be addressed in the coming cycle.

Honorable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we have heard from other speakers today, 3rd May is a reminder to governments, of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. The UN in Ghana is proud of the successes chalked by the government and other stakeholders in the passage of right to Information-RTI law in 2019. Upholding the right to information and ensuring journalists are safe-guarded is a core tenet upon which Ghana’s democracy will thrive. Maintaining and expanding that space is of critical importance. In this regard, I am encouraging government to expedite the implementation of the RTI law to allow citizens to have access to information to improve their livelihoods and build a sustainable, transparent and accountable society and nation. Chalking up this success contributes to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16.10.2 and this is essential to Ghana achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On behalf of the UN Secretary General and the UN in Ghana, I urge the Ghanaian government to do everything in its power to continue to support a free, independent and diverse media.  Free and independent journalism is our greatest ally in combating misinformation and disinformation and an important contribution to a thriving democracy.

The United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists aims to create a safe environment for media workers across the globe — because information is a public good. That is why, we are supporting the National Media Commission-NMC in the implementation of the mechanism on safety of journalists in Ghana.

The UN Secretary General enjoins us to reflect on today’s message and renew our efforts to protect media freedom so that information remains a life-saving public good for all.

On this note, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention. 

Speech by
Author
Charles Abani
UN Resident Coordinator
UN
Charles Abani
UN entities involved in this initiative
RCO
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
UNESCO
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNIC
United Nations Information Centre