World Press Freedom Day Event – Remarks by Public Affairs Officer Ginny Elliott

Public Affairs Officer Ginny Elliott delivering remarks at the World Press Freedom Day Event at the Press Centre, Accra May 03, 2023

PAO Ginny Elliott REMARKS
MAY 03, 2023

TIME:  10.00am

Good morning!  On behalf of Ambassador Palmer and the U.S. Embassy, I’m so pleased to celebrate with you today as we mark the 30th anniversary since the UN declaration of World Press Freedom Day.  I salute all our friends in the media who are here today.

This 30th anniversary edition is being celebrated around the world. Partners from the media, academia, and civil society are deliberating on the theme “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights.” Our own Secretary of State Antony Blinken will commemorate this important day later when he helps launch the 2023 World Press Freedom Index.

A free press is one of the most vital ingredients for any functioning democracy.  For this reason, the Founding Fathers of the United States ensured that freedom of expression was the very first guarantee of our constitution.

It’s also why the media are often referred to as the Fourth Estate.  There may be three branches of government in democracies like the United States and Ghana- but where would we be if there were not objective journalists and investigative reporters to hold our elected leaders accountable?  And who are free to represent a range of viewpoints on behalf of all citizens.

A free, vibrant, and independent media is crucial. The U.S. Embassy continues to support media development institutions to build the capacity of Ghanaian journalists in fact checking, investigative journalism, reporting on people with disabilities, and media literacy programs for young Ghanaians to improve their appetite for news and credible information.

The Embassy’s grant to the Department of Communication, University of Ghana in support of “State of the Ghanaian Media report” is one clear example of our ardent commitment to support Ghanaian media.  Aspects of the report included working conditions in media, media ownership, journalists’ safety.  I recommend it to you as a useful roadmap for guiding our way forward to support journalists.

In 2020, the U.S Embassy supported the Alliance for Women in Media Africa (AWMA) and the School of Information and Communication Studies at the University of Ghana  to launch “the Status of Women in the Ghanaian Media” report, again providing evidence for advocacy and support.  Based on a nationwide study of newsrooms, the report presented an overview of the profile of women in the Ghanaian media including the positions they occupy, career progression opportunities, their challenges and experiences with issues of harassment and other human right abuses.

The findings in these two reports are catalysts for development organizations in the industry, government, academia, and consumers of news to spur improvements.

We are currently witnessing a situation where media freedom, freedom of expression, as well other human rights, are increasingly under attack.  Journalists’ safety is of major concern as was stipulated in the State of Ghanaian Media Report.  As the report correctly points out, journalists must be protected.  Just as the public can be protected from misinformation by strong civil liability laws.

Journalism provides us all a platform for informed discussion across a range of issues – including governance and corruption, environmental challenges, gender equality, youth engagement and peacebuilding. Only when journalists are at liberty to monitor, investigate and criticize policies and actions can good governance exist.

Today we applaud the work of you – the Fourth Estate – and your colleagues around the world.  Thank you for the important role you are fulfilling to keep the people informed.

As we mark this 30th anniversary, we call on all stakeholders to refocus on freedom of expression as a vital precondition for the enjoyment of all other human rights.  As Thomas Jefferson once said “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost”.

Thank you.