Judges play an essential role in ensuring the safety of journalists, the Director of UNESCO Accra Office, Edmond Moukala, has said.
He said by bringing perpetrators of attacks against media practitioners to book, they created a safe environment for journalists to practise their trade without fear or favour.
It also ensured that international laws were respected in national decisions involving freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, Mr Moukala added.
The director was speaking at a three-day workshop for judges on freedom of expression, Artificial Intelligence and the rule of law in Tema, Greater Accra Region, yesterday.
The workshop was organised by UNESCO, a specialised agency of the UN that promotes international collaboration in education, science and culture, in partnership with the Judicial Training Institute of Ghana.
In attendance are 30 justices from Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, who are exploring international standards on press freedom in a democratic society as interpreted by international organs such as the UN Human Rights Committee and the African Commission/Court on Human and People’s Rights.
The director further said that issues of freedom of expression and the safety of journalists were significant and demanded the attention of duty bearers, arbitration authorities and security services.
He, however, said judicial systems worldwide were confronted with constantly changing communications environment, hence the judiciary must navigate between intersecting rights to privacy and the right to access to information.
Mr Moukala also said UNESCO had a global mandate to “protect the free flow of ideas by word and image”, adding that it was in that context his outfit was working to advance those fundamental freedoms by building the capacity of members of the judiciary to prevent indiscriminate actions against freedom of expression.
The Director of the Judicial Training Institute, Justice Omoro Tanko Amadu, said while the media continued to play pivotal roles in national development, the growing practice of yellow journalism was frustrating the process.
“I have observed very distasteful, inciteful, hateful and defamatory commentary and reportage churned out by some journalists or media houses targeted at private individuals, public persons and the institutions they head.
“All these incidents make a sad story of the risk and dangers we are subjecting our beloved democracy to.
“Attacks and threats on journalists and the media are, however, never an option and must, therefore, not be encouraged to rear their ugly head nor prevail,” he said.
The director urged all persons who were affected by bad journalism to seek redress through appropriate state organs and the formal court system.
In the recent 2023 Annual Global Press Freedom Assessment report, Ghana dropped to the 62nd position, down from its previous 2022 ranking of 60th position.
The Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said his outfit would continue to engage prosecutors to be firm and resolute in proffering right charges against attackers of journalists and media houses.
“This is because the public is of the view that very often, the kind of charges preferred against such persons are weak, leaving the bench with no option than to give out sanctions that are not deterrent enough.” he said
The minister urged the participants to strike a balance between protecting individual rights and addressing the potential risk and harms associated with Artificial Intelligence technology and use.