The Speaker of Parliament, the Right Honourable Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, expressed his concern about the current state of the media, citing intimidation and violence against media practitioners.
He also called for a nationally agreed condition of service scheme for media practitioners.
Bagbin made these remarks at a press soirée in Takoradi as part of the 30th anniversary of uninterrupted democracy in Ghana under the Fourth Republic.
He noted that the poor welfare and violence against media practitioners are responsible for Ghana’s declining human rights record, which threatens Ghana’s democracy.
He wondered why the country has not taken clear steps to protect journalists and improve their welfare so that they can effectively serve as the “gatekeepers” of Ghana’s democracy.
“We are really worried about the state of the media,” Bagbin said. “It’s not just the fear and intimidation, or the attacks and violence against media personnel, but also the working environment of media personnel. If the media is so important, why hasn’t the country clearly defined some minimum conditions of service for media personnel? Why don’t people appreciate the work of the media? Whether public or private, what the media does is for the public good. So you can see that because of what is happening to the media, our human rights record is gradually declining, and we need to review the welfare and conditions of service of media practitioners. A journalist should know that what they get at the end of the month will be enough to sustain them. We don’t need a media that is responsive to or pressured by society, but a media that stands on its own. This is because the intention of the constitution is to establish an independent media that can hold all arms of government and individuals accountable.”
Bagbin urged Ghana’s leaders not to take the country’s peaceful democracy for granted, as the media has played a key role in its preservation.
He also emphasized the importance of the media in democratic governance. “Yes, we have the executive, which is responsible for implementing our decisions. We have the legislature, which is traditionally responsible for enacting laws. And we have the judiciary, which mediates and intervenes when laws are not being followed. However, if we allow these three institutions to operate without public oversight, no one will know what they are doing. So, as the media, what can you do to improve their work or hold them accountable? The media is the important arm that connects these important institutions to the people. The media is so important in a democracy.”
Bagbin also emphasized his own close relationship with the media. “I have always been a friend of the media,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the media, I wouldn’t be Speaker of Parliament today. I wouldn’t have won seven consecutive elections and remained in Parliament for so long. I recognized the importance of the media early on, and I have worked with them ever since. I have sponsored and continue to sponsor media practitioners at the Ghana Institute of Journalism. When I was the minority leader, I sponsored at least two students per year to the GIJ, and they are all practising journalists today. Some of them are with the NDC, and some are with the NPP. Some of the key media practitioners are aware of what I have done for them. It is just a passion that I have, and I don’t expect anything in return. I just expect the media to do its job well, because the media is the watchdog of government.”
Bagbin concluded by stating that Parliament has taken steps to ensure that the media can perform its mandate without difficulty. He also announced that the Speaker’s Office will be organizing a number of events in August 2023 to foster civic engagement and enhance public awareness of parliamentary democracy in Ghana. These events will include meetings with journalists, chiefs, and the public, as well as a peace walk and a mock Parliament.