Dear comrades of the inky fraternity,
I write to you in fear. In about four months’ time, you begin the journey to go to war – cover elections amid tensions. May I urge you while you clean your pen tubes and dust the old scrolls to report from the war front, take this letter with you. It may come in handy as the present times need some encouragement and reminder on the spirit of patriotism.
I do not wish to sound pessimistic but all the indexes that evaluate our safety look gloomy. The annual report from the Reporters Without Borders after assessing the state of journalism and our welfare of some 180 countries say our dear nation has lost its enviable record of been the number one in press freedom in Africa to Namibia. The World Press Freedom Index this year also say we have declined from the 23rd position to the 27th. Many have since dreaded the current government for recording a number of attacks on press freedom regardless its recent reactionary efforts to salvaging the situation.
The murder of our brother of blessed memory, Ahmed Suale , an investigative journalist with Tiger Eye PI, remains a torture to our memories ; our brothers from Daily Graphic Victor Kwakume and Timothy Gobah; Latiff Iddrissu of Joy News; the three from the Ghanaian Times among others forewarn us of the continuous intolerance and brutalities meted out by some security personnel in their line of duties. The manhandling of Adjafor of Modernghana.com by national security apparatus among many other cases, are a mirror view of what we are likely to face from now till 2020. It is estimated since January 2018, 11 of our comrades have come under attacks with 1 dying in the process. Some were slapped, some heckled like they did not know their jobs despite the many years of professional training, some verbally abused, undermined and shoved around, others were shot at, chained like animals, tased and beaten like criminals. Unfortunately, neither of these abuses on our comrades have received any prosecution except for the usual chorus widespread condemnation.
We have had equal shares of these attacks in previous regimes. Yahaya of GBC Radio was assaulted by a presidential staffer, Stan Dogbe. The conditions around our transportation to cover the lightening of the Independence Day perpetual flame in the previous government was not palatable either. Napoleon Ato Kittoe now lives with a deep scar on his forehead whilst one of his compatriots could not live to see his family after a bloody accident involving the presidential convoy in previous government. The cause as reported was partly due to the poor state of the vehicle that was transporting these reporters. Among the several other pockets of neglect and attacks suffered the press and pressmen of our country. Not forgetting the closure of a couple of media houses purported to be owned by the largest opposition group in the country. This is certainly not democracy and its twin attendant, free and independent press.
The Media Foundation for West Africa, the Ghana Journalists Association, civil societies, the international community and in fact all media friends are shocked at the horrific treatment of pressmen which has eaten into our democracy lately. They have discredited the current regime and have called for an end to this dastardly act, acts aimed at intimidating pressmen in our part of the world, knowing very well pressmen hold the key to deadlocks in development, accountability and responsibility of the ruling power.
Despite all these wanton disregards for the power that we yield, we have not threatened to go on strike as any worker’s union would do in times of lawlessness and threats on professional lives. We have not given up on our country. We dare not drop the pen and the paper least our country will be left in the hands of spindrifts, tyrants, looters and sharers. It is commendable that some of our comrades though are in exile are still sharply criticizing the current establishment which many have described as a regime fraught with the highest number of attacks on press and pressmen. Ironically, it is this government that has passed the Right to Information Bill and the disbarment of the political thugs who hitherto would have brutalized us on election day, come 2020.
Friends, this letter is to remind you that our work in the electioneering period may even be more volatile. The political kangaroo dances and gimmicks to win votes will not stop but heighten. Therefore, staying skeptical, neutral but ideological is non-negotiable. But ultimately the drive and struggle which won us independence and saw us through the dark days of military regimes and hostilities of culture of silence, should spur us on unabatedly. We should continue to go to the places so called ‘out of bounds’ to dig out the rot to get the headlines and the documentaries out of them and defend our stories even in the court.
In 2020, when the campaign for peace, free, fair, unity and love reaches a peak, I am also by this reminding you to create awareness among all and sundry especially state securities on the need to say no to the abuse of the press and pressmen, for no one has ever won the fight completely against the press, not even Donald Trump.
A Colleague. Kabu Nartey.
The writer is the 2019/2020 best graduating student in print journalism and the 2019 most promising student journalist of GIJ. | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org