The Role of Ghanaian News Media Organisations in Countering Threats to Media Freedom and Journalists' Safety

The Role of Ghanaian News Media Organisations in Countering Threats to Media Freedom and Journalists' Safety

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1298-2.ch011
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Journalist safety is vital to media freedom as it shows stakeholders' duties to protect the media from crime and to guard media freedom. The media have the power to combat problems via coverage, yet evidence submits that journalist insecurity persists in Ghana. So, the study aims to examine how the Ghanaian media are tackling journalist insecurity through coverage. Using agenda-setting and framing theories, content analyses of 66 news stories from newspapers, and five interviews are used to gather data to study the coverage and framing of journalist insecurity in the media and how they tackle threats to media freedom. Thematic analysis of data gathered showed that the newspapers were unable to give prominence to the problem because only 30.60% of total editions gave attention to the issue. Also, the media failed to present journalist insecurity as an issue that needs national attention because only 10.6% of the news stories used thematic frames. This undermines media freedom as it allows journalist insecurity to thrive, hence, failure to advocate journalist safety.
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One of the major challenges that journalists face in their quest to keep citizens in democracies informed and educated is insecurity (Berger, 2017; Freedom House, 2017, 2016, 2015; Reporter without Borders, 2019; 2018; 2017, 2016, 2015; UNESCO 2016, 2015, 2014). Therefore, journalists' insecurity dominates studies on media freedom and journalists' safety. This is because extensive evidence suggests that “more journalists are being killed and threatened around the world than at any time before” (Cottle, 2017, p.21). It is in this light that Jamil (2017) avers that “the issue of journalists' safety happens to be growing worse with an increasing number of journalists killings, kidnapping and imprisonment worldwide” (p. 8). A critical look at annual media freedom reports by Freedom House and Reporters without Borders shows that concerns about journalists' insecurity in the course of their duties are often given significant attention in the reports (Freedom House, 2017; 2016; 2015; 2014; 2013; 2012; Reporters without Borders, 2019;2018; 2017; 2016; 2015; 2014; 2013, 2012). As a result, attempts to address the lack of safety and security have been made at international and national levels.

Principal among such attempts is the launch of the UN Plan of Action on the Security of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity in 2012 as well as its implementation in 2013. The review of the Plan, carried out in 2013 and 2014, showed that in many states, there had been a significant impact in the mobilization of many actors around the issue of journalists’ safety at both the global UN level and the regional levels. This impact is realized especially in the response rate of the request for voluntary information on killings (of journalists) and judicial follow up (Berger, 2017). For instance, Berger (2017) posits that UNESCO recorded an increase of 47 per cent in 2015 against the response rate of 30 per cent recorded in 2013. This picture changed for the better in 2016 when the organization recorded a 65 per cent increase.

Despite these and other strides from such attempts, issues of journalists’ insecurity persist, especially in Africa. The 2019 World Press Freedom Index Report from Reporters without Borders indicates that three out of the first four African countries with best press freedom ratings have journalists' insecurity problems (Reporters without Borders, 2019a). Except for Cape Verde, journalists in Namibia, Ghana and South suffer from media freedom violations in the course of their duties. Thus, there is an absence of attacks on journalists in Cape Verde, and their constitution guarantees exceptional media freedom (Reporters without Borders, 2019c). However, attacks on journalists were recorded in the remaining three countries (Reporters without Borders, 2019 b, c, d, e). Namibia is the African country with the highest rating after moving up from the 26th position in 2018 to 23rd in 2019, yet the report posits that journalists who dare to criticize authorities get threatened by the government (Reporters without Borders, 2019b). Ghana, the next African country with high ratings, after Cape Verde, dropped from 23rd position in 2018 to 27th place in 2019. It lost its status as the best-rated country in Africa because several journalists got attacked with impunity in 2018 (Reporters without Borders, 2019d). South Africa also dropped from 28th position to 31st. The report notes that journalists who tried to cover specific issues about ANC suffered intimidation and harassment (Reporters without Borders, 2019e).

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