The Ministry of Information has described as unfortunate statements attributed to the Ghana Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), National Media Commission (NMC), Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and others in the matter of the caution statement taken from JoyFM over the publication of alleged death threats.
A statement signed by Honourable John Tia Akologu said the Ministry has also noted the deliberate attempt by JoyFM to continue the peddling of falsehood in this matter by claiming in its news broadcasts that its news editor has been charged for refusing to disclose his source of information for the death threats JoyFM claimed were received by some executives of the Ghana Real Estates Developers Association (GREDA).
“The police according to reports monitored by the Ministry has explained extensively that its discussions with JoyFM have related only to knowing the persons who are being threatened with death in order to give them protection, and nothing else. This case is not about the disclosure or protection of a source. It is about JoyFM claiming that some members of GREDA have received death threats. ”
The statement noted that it will be important for persons commenting and accusing government of attempts to truncate press freedom in the country to educate themselves on and about the issues at stake, understand the position of the police and also the legal limits to press freedom.
According to Honourable Tia, while government is not interested in criminalizing speech and/or sending any journalist to court, government also believes that journalists and the media as a whole have a responsibility to be objective, truthful and professional, “instead of hiding behind press freedom to deliberately peddle falsehood and in other cases hate mongering.”
The Minister expressed regret that JoyFM which broadcast the false news item refused to give government’s rejoinder to the alleged death threat and GREDA contract cancellation story equal airtime and prominence as the original story.
“This was despite the fact that other media houses had published the government statement and officials of GREDA had denied the JoyFM claims”, it added.
“The Mills administration believes in the strengthening of our institutions including the media and will be the last to truncate the freedom of the press, but the rights that are enjoyed by the media must be balanced with responsibility”, the statement continued.
The Ministry reminded journalists of Articles 164 and 165 of the Constitution which talks about the limitations to press freedom, explaining that the two provisions must be looked at in terms of how the media can and must contribute to national development.
The statement confirmed a meeting with the GJA on Wednesday at which the Association following an official letter sent to it by JoyFM engaged the Ministry on the latest developments on the false JoyFM death threat story.
“We discussed broadly with the GJA matters of mutual concern including media accountability and unethical practices in the journalism profession.”
Mr. Tia Akologu, who explained that the Ministry does not consider criminal prosecution an answer to the many cases of unethical practices, recounted many instances of JoyFM’s unprofessional broadcasts. He also observed that the work of the police must be delinked from central government and for that matter the Ministry of Information because the decision to caution the JoyFM editor and refer the matter to the Attorney General was and remains the decision of the Police.
The statement however said, the Minister welcomed the request from the GJA for the Ministry to assist to discontinue the case against JoyFM.
Signed: John Tia, Information Minister