Professor Kwame Karikari, Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has expressed sadness at how the country's democratic discourse has turned into 'rumour mongering,' 'superstition' and 'hatred,' and says the trend must be reversed without further delay.
'We should look at the content of our democratic discourse. The current situation poses danger to the very democratic system that we are seeking to consolidate,' he bemoaned.
The media rights activist was speaking in Accra yesterday at a forum by MFWA in collaboration with Freedom House Inc. to get the approval of the various political parties on a draft proposal for the amendment of sections of the Criminal Offences Act, Act 29 of 1960.
According to MFWA, the amendment has become possible because certain sections of Act 29 have been identified to be 'inconsistent' with freedom of speech as outlined in the 1992 Constitution and it wanted the political parties to state their commitment before they were elected into office so the public could hold them accountable.
In attendance were representatives of political parties including the Convention People's Party (CPP), People's National Convention (PNC), Democratic People's Party (DPP) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
However, invited representatives from the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), Progressive People's Party (PPP) and Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) failed to turn up for the forum.
Prof. Karikari said 'reckless use of freedom is a process of undermining freedom', adding 'the balancing of responsibility of freedom is important as we go into another election.'
He said recklessness in the media landscape waded, eroded the democratic gains made by Ghana and the lack of certain media regulations had enabled politicians to use the system to promote their parochial agenda to the detriment of the development of the country.
'We have produced our critique and we are not saying it is beyond critique. We want the inputs of the political actors as well as their commitment to implementing these amendments when they get the chance to rule the country.'
Thomas Nuako Ward-Brew, founder of DPP said the courts did not have difficulty in applying Act 29. However, he said the problem lied with how political parties in power have sought to use the judicial system to apply the law.
He described excesses in the media as 'dangerous' development that must be dealt with without hesitation.
Yaw Buaben Asamoah of the NPP said the move by MFWA was 'a logical extension for the indecent speech project being embarked upon by the foundation and must be encouraged.'
He said the time had come for all stakeholders to look at issues of concern while attempting to liberalise the media landscape, saying, 'Further legislation to liberalise the media without first addressing current excesses in the media would add to the problems.
'It is going to be a hard journey of advocacy, but whatever comes up, it must stand the test of time and the NPP is fully in support of the foundation's efforts.'
Nii Akomfra of the CPP said the party's legal committee was prepared to make their inputs into the draft to ensure that the law served everybody well.
Justice Francis Emile Short, a former commissioner of CHRAJ who chaired the forum, said Ghanaians should not take freedom of speech and freedom of the media for granted.
In the end, all the representatives of the parties present said the move by MFWA was laudable and that they would need time to study and make their inputs; a suggestion which was agreed by the foundation.
By William Yaw Owusu