Parliament Marks International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists


Members of Parliament stressed today the need to protect journalists and prosecute those responsible for crimes committed against them on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists which was commemorated by UN member states last Saturday.      The lawmakers urged the relevant authorities to take effective measures to end impunity for crimes committed against journalists by ensuring accountability as a key element in preventing future attacks and also by ensuring that law enforcement agencies carry out swift, effective and impartial investigations into acts of violence and threats against journalists. These, the MPs opined, is to bring all those responsible to justice, and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies.     Members of the august House lamented that when attacks on journalists remain unpunished, a very negative message is sent that reporting the embarrassing truth or unwanted opinions will get ordinary people in trouble. Furthermore, society loses confidence in its own judiciary system which is meant to protect everyone from attacks on their rights. Perpetrators of crimes against journalists are thus emboldened when they realize they can attack their targets without ever facing justice.     Hon Members called for resourcing of the National Media Commission to undertake its constitutional mandated responsibility of registering, regulating and monitoring the activities of media houses and also take all measures to ensure the establishment and maintenance of the highest journalistic standards on mass media, including investigation, mediation and settlement of complaints made against or by the press or other mass media.      The Honourable Members made these comments in their contribution to a statement read on the floor of the House by Hon. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, the Ranking Member on Committee on Foreign Affairs who is also the MP for North Tongu to mark the United Nations’ Day to End Impunity for crimes against Journalists     The former Deputy Education Minister stated that it is in recognition of the far-reaching consequences of impunity especially of crimes against journalists that the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/68/163 at its 68th Session in 2013 which proclaimed November 2nd as the International Day to End Impunity against Journalists (IDEI).     He indicated that the Resolution which focused on the recognition of the far-reaching consequences of impunity, especially of crimes against journalists urged member states to implement definite measures countering the present culture of immunity and further explained that 2nd November was chosen in commemoration of the assassination of two French journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon in Mali on 2nd November 2013.     Hon Ablakwa referred to UNESCO reports which stated that more than a thousand journalists have been killed over the past twelve years and do not include the many more journalists, who on a daily basis suffer from non-fatal attacks, including torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, intimidation and harassment in both conflict and non-conflict situations stressing that there are specific risks faced by women journalists, including sexual attacks.     The MP admitted that it is a worry that only one in ten cases committed against media workers over the past decade has led to a conviction and therefore an impunity which  emboldens the perpetrators of the crimes and at the same time having a chilling effect on society including journalists themselves.      The Ranking Member conceded that Ghana now boasts of a vibrant and pluralistic media which is striving to perform its functions of keeping the citizenry informed, ensuring that public officers are accountable and also that the media is the leading cause for societal progress yet there are issues we must all be concerned about as democrats as the history of Ghana’s media is a checkered one.      He eulogised journalists such as Kwesi Pratt, Kwaku Baaku, Haruna Atta who endured persecution, incarcerations, torture and other forms of attacks in their quest for press freedom not forgetting the trailblazers such as P.A.V. Ansah, Tommy Thompson and Kofi Badu among other veteran journalists.      The North Tongu lawmaker heaped similarly praises on former President John Agyekum Kufuor for repealing the Criminal Libel law in 2001 and also commended former President John Jerry Rawlings for superintending the processes that led to the promulgation of the 1992 Constitution which guarantees the freedom and independence of the press in Ghana.     Hon. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa concluded his statement by paying a tribute to investigative journalist of Tiger Eye Ahmed Suale who was brutally murdered by a morbid assassin recently and called on the investigative authorities to brief the populace with an update on the investigation so far with the hope that the investigation will identify those responsible for this murder and bring them to justice so that justice can finally be served.