President Akufo-Addo has refuted the perception that his government is overseeing a culture of silence.
The President also challenged claims that press freedom has suffered under his presidency.
“When it comes to the press, I am certain I have nothing to apologise for with reference to anything I have ever done or said,” he said during a special congregation in his honour at the University of Cape Coast.
President Akufo-Addo again touted the role he played under the Kufuor administration in repealing the criminal libel law.
“I have been a part of and sometimes led the struggle for individual rights and freedom of the press in this country. I believe in it. it is part of my makeup.”
President Akufo-Addo however said his government would be in its right to challenge the assertions made by some media houses.
“A radio station is currently running a campaign against Free SHS. Would a spirited defence of the Free SHS policy constitute an attack on press freedom? I wonder.”
“It cannot be that everyone has a right of a reply except members of the government and officialdom, nor can it be that challenging an opinion expressed by a journalist constitutes an attack on press freedom,” the President argued.
Moving forward, he said both the media and government need to be open to dialogue on issues
“Knowledge has never been a gift granted exclusively to one group. We must listen and hear each other more,” he implored.
Ultimately, President Akufo-Addo said the amount of criticism he has received, which would have not been tolerated under certain regimes in Ghana’s political history, was evidence of the healthy state of the press.
“I find it ironic that the presidency of a man who has been and continues to be daily the most vilified political figure of his generation can be accused of presiding over a culture of silence.”
“There is no midnight knock on the door in Ghana or authors of dissenting views nor will there be during my presidency,” President Akufo-Addo assured.
Scrutiny of Akufo-Addo’s press freedom record
Though Ghana ranks 30 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern with the fact many cases of police aggression against journalists have gone unpunished.
The 2020 World Press Freedom Index report also noted that some journalists covering the effectiveness of the government’s measures against COVID-19 were attacked by police in 2020.
Over the course of the Akufo-Addo administration, it has been criticized on these points, as well as the closure of some prominent pro-opposition radio stations.
The conduct of National Security Personnel towards Citi FM journalists on May 13 was the most high-profile incident of state action so far against journalists in 2021.
One of the Citi FM journalists, Caleb Kudah, was tortured whilst in National Security custody.
Before this, in July 2018, the National Security personnel, in another notable incident, arrested and tortured two journalists after the publication of an article that criticized the National Security Minister, Albert Kan Dapaah.
The government’s response so far to these incidents has been largely condemned, with many suggesting that it gives the impression that the state is either complicit or tacitly supports such actions against journalists.