Media Freedom in Ghana

Scientific Essay, 2013

9 Pages




Article 162 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana

Brief history of the media in Ghana

The need for press freedom in Ghana

Abuses of press freedom in Ghana

Circumstances that would warrant restrictions on the media without jeopardizing the human rights of Ghanaians




A free press is the cornerstone of a democratic society. It has been said that liberty depends on the freedom of the press. However, when these freedoms and rights are left unrestricted or without borders there are likely to be abuses. This write-up looks to figure out the provisions in the 1992 constitution that protect the independence and freedom of the press and also try to find out if there are other provisions in the constitution as well as other legal documents that act as checks on these rights and freedoms. The write-up will later examine situations that could warrant deliberate restrictions on media freedom. The write-up has been organized into seven sub-headings namely; article 162 of the 1992 constitution, the media, brief history of the media in Ghana, press freedom and the role of the media in Ghana, the need for press freedom in Ghana, abuses of press freedom in Ghana and circumstances that would warrant restrictions on the media without jeopardizing the human rights of Ghanaians.

Article 162 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana

Provisions for the freedom and independence of the media in Ghana are clearly stated in chapter twelve, article 162 of the 1992 fourth republican constitution of Ghana. Clause one states explicitly that, “ freedom and independence of the media are hereby guaranteed .“ Then clause two says, “subject to this constitution and any other law not inconsistent with this Constitution there shall be no censorship in Ghana . Clause three adds that “there shall be no impediments to the establishment of private press or media ; and in particular, there be no law requiring any person to obtain a license as a prerequisite to the establishment or operation of a newspaper, journal or other media for mass communication or information.” The fourth clause of article 162 says “ editors and publishers of newspapers and other institutions of the mass media shall not be subject to control or interference by government, nor shall they be penalized or harassed for their editorial opinions and views or the content of their publications. “ The fifth clause adds that, “ all agencies of the media shall, at all times be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this constitution, and shall uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people of Ghana. Then the sixth and final clause to this article states that “ any medium for the dissemination of information to the public which publishes a statement about or against any person shall be obliged to publish a rejoinder, if any, from the person in respect of whom the publication was made. It is also important to note that, these provisions are among other provisions which are entrenched in article 289 of the 1992 constitution meaning their amendments will demand several complexities, therefore the constitution has to a very large extent safeguarded the freedom and independence of the press.

Brief history of the media in Ghana

The history of the media in Ghana can be traced as far back as 1882 when Ghana was called the Gold coast. The then British governor Sir Charles Mccarthy who was overseeing the country, then a colony to the British established the “Royal Gold coast Gazette “ as an official newspaper for government. Then the “African-run” newspaper owned and edited by two brothers; Charles and Edmund Bannerman also started publication in 1987. With time there was the introduction of a law that was to change the atmosphere of media freedom called the criminal code (Amendment) ordinance, specifying entirely new offences which constituted sedition and it found two people; Azikiwe and Wallace-Johnson prosecuted under it (Twumasi, 1981). The 1950s saw the production of some newspapers including the daily Graphic and the Sunday mirror. In the course of time, the leader of the CPP, Kwame Nkrumah went into journalism and also established the Accra Evening News newspaper, the Sekondi Morning Telegraph newspaper and the Daily Mail newspaper which was an attempt to promote the ideology of his own Convention Peoples Party (CPP). In the same vein, another leading political party at the time, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC ) also established the National Times newspaper, Talking Drums newspaper and the Ashanti Pioneer newspaper. It is noteworthy that the CPP government after independence bought the daily graphic newspaper for government in 1962. Furthermore, the newspaper licensing act which required publishers and editors of newspapers to renew their license every year from government was passed and this translated into a weapon used by government to have absolute control over the development of private news media (Twumasi, 1981).

Regarding the electronic media, broadcasting in Ghana is said to have begun in the colonial era dating as far back as 1935 when the then Governor of the Gold coast; sir Arnold Hodson established the first and the only wired radio distribution system in Accra. It was later given the name station ZOY and started service on 31 July 1935. The period between 1946 and 1953, saw station ZOY being administered by the public relations department of the colonial Government (Alhassan , 2005). In 1953, the station’s name was changed to Gold Coast Broadcasting Service (GCBS) and transformed into a separate department of government. The (GCBS) was later renamed the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). Television was introduced in Ghana in 1965 as part of the services and operations of the GBC. Additionally , there are other private television stations currently doing free-on-air broadcast including TV3, METRO TV, TV AFRICA,

NET2 TV, VIASAT1, CRYSTAL TV, and MULT TV. The year 1995 happened to be a land mark year for independent private broadcasting. The long standing monopoly held by the state owned GBC was broken in conformity with the 1922 constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of ownership of the means of speech expression, be it print or electronic . This came with a struggle as the NDC government then was reluctant to grant licenses for people. It all started on November 19, 1994 when Radio EYE operated by Independent Media Corporation of Ghana (IMCG) threw caution to the winds and begun the country’s first private broadcast station. However, on December 4, 1994, the premises of radio EYE were raided by the police, sent to an Accra circuit court and charged with operating radio station without license and written consent (Ayitevie, 1996). After a series of public protests and litigations, the Ghana Frequency Registration Control Board (GFRCB) allocated a number of frequencies for private FM radio and TV broadcasts (Sakyi-Addo, 1996). Today, dozens of newspapers including two state-owned publish regularly, and there are countless television stations in operation. Radio is the most popular medium with more than 300 FM stations operating nationwide.

The need for press freedom in Ghana

Press freedom is what enables democracies all over the world to work. A completely free press is expected to maximize political, social and cultural outcomes for citizens in a society. Liberal theorists have long argued that the existence of a unfettered and independent press within each nation is essential in the process of democratization, by contributing towards the right of freedom of expression, thought and conscience, strengthening the responsiveness and accountability of governments to all citizens and providing a pluralist platform and channel of political expression for a multiplicity of groups and interests. The guarantee of freedom of expression and information is recognized as a basic human right in the universal declaration of human rights adopted by the UN in 1948, the European convention on Human Rights, The American conventions on human rights and and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The media are seen as a window on events and experience, a mirror of events in society and the world (McQuail, 2000).

Abuses of press freedom in Ghana

Chapter 12 of the 1992 constitution guarantees media freedom s in Ghana and some critics like lawyer Ogochukwu Nweke of the African University of Communications (AUCC) strongly advocate an amendment. Many critics are of the view that, the constitution has granted unlimited freedoms without adequate provisions to hold them accountable. It is true that there has been the practice of some dangerous, reckless and irresponsible journalism in Ghana. Other vices that have characterized a section of the media include the use of media platforms to disseminate hate speech, use of intemperate language, insults, fabrications, character assassination among others. This trend has invited the voice of top officials like former President John Agyekum Kuffour who interestingly was under his tenure that the criminal libel law was amended on August 9 2001. Speaking at the 10th anniversary of the repeal of the infamous criminal libel law in 2011, the former President expressed worry that if the menace was not checked it could plunge the country into a civil conflict. It is further important to note that, similar reckless and irresponsible media practice in other parts of the world has led to very disastrous consequences like the Rwandan genocide that took place in 1994, causing the murder of about five hundred thousand Tutsis according to the human rights watch. The Genocide which eliminated about twenty percent of the entire Rwandan population was orchestrated by some media houses in Rwanda notables including “Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines” who promoted the genocide by inciting violence against Tutsis over the air. Other stakeholders including the current chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), Ambassador Kabral Blay Amihere has also added his voice to the trend of abuse of press freedom in Ghana and said in 2011 that “ Ghana’s democracy is quiet better because we have a vibrant press but the actions of journalists can bring down this nation. We have a false belief that the media is free but I say that by transgressions, it will give the authorities opportunity to clamp down on the media”. Such comments from no mean a person than the chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC) speak volumes of the rate of abuses that have characterized the media in Ghana. For example, as part of measures to ensure a free, fair and peaceful elections in 2012 an NGO called the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) put together an exercise dubbed “the daily monitoring of electoral campaign language-use on radio”. The exercise which sought to name and shame individuals and political activists who make indecent expressions on radio with the aim of contributing to peaceful election within a very short period of time recorded a total of indecent expressions on programmes monitored on the 31 radio stations selected for the project. The team recorded insulting comments, unsubstantiated allegations, provocative remarks, inflammatory remarks, remarks calling for violence and comment promoting divisiveness. All these records if not checked have the potentials of sparking violence in the country and call for measures that could curb them and which may include restrictions.


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free press, Ghana, Media Freedom, press freedom in Ghana
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Kwesi Nyarkoh Koomson (Author), 2013, Media Freedom in Ghana, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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