Protecting press freedom, democracy – Prof. Karikari
Professor Kwame Karikari, media expert and scholar
Media expert, Prof. Kwame Karikari, has called on media professionals across the African continent to rekindle the fight to protect and defend press freedom and democracy.
“There seems to be a decline in commitment to the fight to protect and defend press freedom across the continent. The spirit needs to be revived by professional media associations and human rights organisations,” he said.
Prof Karikari said the declining struggle was also due to the lack of international support for advocacy work in the causes of democracy and media freedom and therefore called for increased support to improve society’s capacity civil society to campaign for democratic causes.
Without such a move, Prof Karikari said the principles of democracy would continue to be attacked by ‘democracy capture’ which would prevent citizens from enjoying the fruits of democracy.
Speaking at a two-day regional conference in Accra attended by media experts, consultants and practitioners from West Africa under the theme “Media, press freedom and recession democracy in West Africa,” Professor Karikari said there was a need for citizens in the West. The Africa region must strive to promote media pluralism and diversity to restore democracy from its current threats and challenges.
The conference was expected to work to promote press freedom and rebuild democracy in the West African region at a time of coups and terrorist activity.
“Capturing Democracy”, noted Professor Karikari, perpetuated the corruption of media professionalism by hiring mercenary journalists whose operations to manipulate public opinion included attacking and intimidating critical journalists and opposition on behalf of their political paymasters.
He explained that “democracy capture” refers to a situation in which elites co-opt, corrupt or pervert the nature of democratic institutions in order to impose policies aimed at maintaining the privileged status of the same elites.
“Whereas in the past the dictatorship used public media editors, columnists and commentators to track down and scare away critics and opposition voices, today the enablers of ‘democracy capture’ employ henchmen in the private media sector,” he added.
Overview of measures
Outlining some steps to address concerns, Prof Karikari urged independent media to continue to report on issues of human rights abuses and support social justice causes while working to forge partnerships and alliances. , within the country and across borders, to share publications and programs designed to expose incidents of “democracy capture” and promote the cause of democracy.
Professor Karikari proposed that conference participants present resolutions for strategies to strengthen the role of the media in the struggle to defend, promote and strengthen the values, principles and institutions of democracy in their countries.
The Resident Representative of ECOWAS in Ghana, Ambassador Baba Gana Wakil, said that misinformation and disinformation had increasingly become a worrying phenomenon which had impacted on participatory governance and the entire democratic prospects of most member states in the region.
The Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Sulemana Braimah, ECOWAS, he noted, has played many roles in democratic governance and peacebuilding, which who, he noted, went the extra mile on the matter. He urged participants to use the conference as a platform to deliberate on measures that would help democracy return to its former glory.