Story By: Eugene Agyei Brown

The 2018 celebration of the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day has been opened in Accra.

Being the 25th edition, the event saw the attendance of over 700 journalists, journalism students and other stakeholders across the world. The event is to mark the official opening ceremony of the 3-day event at the Kempinski Hotel, Gold Coast City.

Participants were treated to an amazing dance performance by the Ghana Dance Ensemble that depicted the work of journalists during wars and elections.

After watching a short documentary on Ghana’s great opportunities and beautiful scenery, Ghana’s Minister of Information, Dr. Mustapha Hamid welcomed the participants to the ceremony. In his welcome address, the minister who is a former journalist emphasized the need for a free press in every country, especially in Ghana.

Dr. Mustapha Hamid said among other things that the media is very important in checking governments and putting them on their toes. He also said that the media even offers the opposition in Ghana and various governments of several other countries to offer dissenting views freely on all key issues which contribute to nation building.

“Today, Ghana stands tall as a healthy vigorous democracy, one which has challenged the known theories of fighting poverty and made strides in investing in education, healthcare and so many crucial interventions,” Dr. Hamid said. “These strides are not made by the political class. Indeed, two instruments that have given us the space and the opportunity to contribute to the current status of the Ghanaian story is the right to freedom of expression and press freedom.”

Dr. Mustapha Hamid also stressed the fact that a free press helps to encourage citizens to make informed decisions.

He encouraged other countries who have not accepted that the media can work in a free jurisdiction to do so as that was the only way to make their nations great.

“Open up your societies, and let the people feel free in engaging in a vigorous exchange of ideas,” he said. “That is how your nations will become greater and stronger than what they are today.”

However, Mr. Hamid advised journalists to be very circumspect in their reports and not sacrifice the future of our society for “today’s headlines.”

A representative of the World Wide Web Foundation, Miss Nnena Nwakanma, gave the keynote address for the opening ceremony. In her address, she noted that the web has given journalists a bigger platform and therefore they have access to a wider audience. She advised that this opportunity should not encourage them to do fake news.

The Deputy Director of UNESCO, Mr. Getachew Engida also affirmed UNESCO’s commitment to protecting journalists.

“Crimes against journalists should not go unpunished,” he said.

The world Press Freedom Day is celebrated May 3 every year to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

This year’s celebration is under theme, keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and Rule of Law.