Deputy Chief of Mission Nicole Chulick’s Remarks
Launch of the State of Ghanaian Media Report
University of Ghana
April 19, 2023
Good Morning. It’s great to be here with you to celebrate the publication of this important report.
I want to offer my thanks and congratulations to everyone who worked on this project, here at the University of Ghana and other contributing authors. And congratulations to the Department of Communication Studies on your 50th anniversary
The U.S. Embassy supported this project because a free, fair, professional, and responsible media is critical to accountable democracy in Ghana and around the world. This report is an example of how to promote such an environment. It provides a transparent accounting of the state of the media in Ghana to inform policymakers and practitioners.
The United States is an ardent supporter of press freedom because we know what the world looks like without a free press. Such a world loses connection to the truth and is influenced by those with less than democratic motives. Such a world ignores the voices of the people and concentrates power with the few.
Thomas Jefferson said that he’d prefer newspapers without government over a government without newspapers. Those words are true today. A modern professional journalist corps contributes to lively and fact-based policy debates. Without an independent and vibrant media, those debates quickly devolve into partisan squabbles. And that’s not what we need to make important public policy decisions today. Independent media allow a competition of ideas on which democracy thrives. So, what do we need to support press freedom and a vibrant media environment? Well, first, we need strong protections for journalists. That’s not to say that journalists can say anything want – just that there must be strong safeguards to protect free speech above all things and appropriate legal recourse for when journalists do not report the truth. That’s exactly what effective civil liability laws can do.
We also need professional journalists, like those that the University of Ghana is teaching each year. Professional journalists need to be treated fairly, trained well, and informed about legal restrictions like libel laws and the role of ethics in modern journalism. Part of supporting professional journalism also means supporting appropriate pay for those reporters, including the women working in newsrooms here in Ghana and around the world.
To effectively contribute to democracy’s development, journalists ask tough questions about government priorities; and the fact-based reporting they produce means the public can play an active role in development and policy decisions.
Just like the United States, Ghana has a law that, effectively implemented, can facilitate quality journalism: the Right to Information Law. This law is helping Ghanaian journalists and community leaders gather crucial information from local authorities, government agencies, and the national government. This flow of information is also critical for public policy decision making. As we learned in the United States with our Freedom of Information Act, sometimes light is the best disinfectant. And, if you’ll permit me to continue, it’s that light that holds governments accountable and serves to fight corruption.
I know that the State of the Ghanaian Media Report being released today will touch on many of these issues. As the professor said, the job is not done – this is just the first step. I hope the report serves as a catalyst for media houses, universities, media support organizations, and governments to shape their programs, training, and policies to ensure that we all support a professional, responsible, and accountable media here in Ghana. Thank you for your kind attention.