Remarks by Counselor for Public Affairs Roberto Quiroz II
on World Press Freedom Day 2019
Ghana International Press Centre (GIPC) in Accra, Ghana
Friday, May 3, 2019; 10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Deputy Minister for Information of the Republic of Ghana, the Honorable Pius Enam Hadzide;
UNESCO Representative in Ghana, Mr. Abdourahamane Diallo;
Legendary journalist and teacher, Mr. Cameron Doudo;
President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr. Affail Monney;
Chairman of the National Media Commission, Mr. Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh;
President of the Association of Women in the Media (ASWIM), Mrs. Mavis Kitcher;
Members of the National Executive of the GJA;
Members of Ghana’s Police Band, thank you for your great performance!
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen;
It is an honor to be here today on behalf of Ambassador Stephanie Sullivan, who is traveling in Kumasi, to underscore once again America’s commitment and belief as a core principle enshrined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights for freedom of the press.
On the 26th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day, we renew our commitment to promoting and protecting a free press, which is an essential pillar of democracy.
As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said, and Ambassador Sullivan has reaffirmed here in Ghana, the United States values freedom of the press. This includes an independent media committed to responsible, facts-based journalism as a key component to promote democratic governance.
By fostering a free press, citizens are more informed, active, and engaged in political decision-making, and can better hold their governments accountable.
That is why the Embassy of the United States of America here in Ghana makes media outreach a priority. We are proud to open our doors to journalists to explain the positive results of our bilateral partnership programs to promote good governance, democracy, economic growth, and development in many sectors. We always invite journalists to contact us anytime they have questions. We also encourage you to follow the U.S. Embassy’s social media platforms and website to stay informed and updated on our programs and activities.
We are proud that the media often interviews Ghanaian partners and beneficiaries of our programs, who consistently tout the high quality of our partnerships to advance their professional objectives, as well as the shared values and goals between our nations. One of those goals is to promote Ghana’s journey towards self-reliance.
And the progress of that journey towards self-reliance and strengthening of your democratic institutions are often covered by journalists, as they should be.
Journalism is a special vocation whose rewards are not always measured in salaries. Today, we honor the many journalists and media actors who have dedicated their lives, often at great risk, to promote transparency and accountability throughout the world. They are unsung heroes.
But we must remain vigilant.
On January 18 this year, the U.S. Embassy condemned the murder of Ahmed Hussein-Suale, a young investigative journalist merely doing his job, and we called for a thorough investigation. We termed this not only an attack on Suale, but on Ghana’s climate of transparency, democratic credibility, and press freedom. Further attacks on some journalists reflect a concerning trend which must be reversed to ensure Ghana’s reputation for media freedoms is maintained.
All nations which call themselves democracies must consistently promote freedom of the press, and a climate whereby journalists are free to do their work without fear, harassment, or intimidation.
A free and independent media shines a light on challenges necessary for governments and citizens to tackle and strengthen our democracies on a range of issues, from good governance and transparency, to the need to combat corruption and human trafficking, and promote gender equality and human rights for all citizens without exception. Also to promote the protection of African natural resources and wildlife.
There is no perfect nation, not even America or Ghana. But the media’s work often points out imperfections which must be resolved to live up to the ideals of democracy. That’s the difference in free societies such as ours, Ghana and the United States.
We must always welcome that difference, and celebrate all journalists dedicated to defending these principles which protect our freedoms and liberties.
As I said last year, I have been impressed by how vibrant and free public debates are on the radio and television, as well as in social media platforms here in Ghana. We commend Ghanaian journalists for giving citizens many forums to become active participants in the democratic process.
We encourage you to keep expanding your network of contacts among other journalists gathered here today, and even to consider applying for one of our exchange programs in the United States. We also do journalism training quite regularly, where participants can meet fellow journalists who share their passion and commitment to tell the story.
You are a key part of Ghana’s story. Your work is very important to ensure Ghana continues to shine a light on this region and beyond as a model of democracy by remaining vigilant in protecting its traditions of freedom of the press. The presence of my honorable and distinguished colleagues here today reaffirms this spirit.
Finally, the theme for today’s program is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation.” How can journalists overcome this challenge? Censoring by governments of differing opinions must never be an option. Access to information is a right.
Consider, however, that at no time in human history have people had greater access to information as they do today because of the internet. This is a great opportunity which cannot be reversed. You challenge disinformation by reporting the truth and calling on citizens to be better informed to strengthen our democracies.
As journalists move forward in their work, they can count on the continued support of the United States of America.
Thank you very much.
May long live Ghana.