Act Responsibly- CJ Tells Journalists

The Chief Justice, Sophia AB Akuffo, has asked media practitioners to be discerning and responsible and strike a fine balance between public interest and individual privacy during their investigations.

She said the act of breaching the privacy of an individual should only be used as the last resort after all ethical methods in getting the story had been exhausted.

This, she said, should be done with the security agencies in accordance with the law.

“You cannot break into somebody’s house and install cameras claiming you are conducting investigation in the interest of the public,” she said.

Justice Akuffo said this when she delivered the keynote address at the 23rd Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Awards ceremony held in Accra which recognised 36 journalists for works done in 2017.

A total of 36 journalists, individuals and corporate organisations were awarded for their contribution to journalistic professionalism and media freedom.

The event, which was on the theme, “State of Investigative Journalism: Boundaries of Privacy and Borders of the Public Interest,” saw the Ghana News Agency (GNA) picking five awards.

Justice Akuffo said it was only the court that could determine the limit of privacy with regards to public interest, saying judgment should not be left to the whims and caprices of any individual.

She disclosed that considering the fluid nature of the subject, journalists must be guided by their professional Code of Ethics and must know where their rights end and another person’s right begins.

The outcome of an investigation should not be judgmental, and journalists should not take position as sometimes done in their reports, the Chief Justice said.

Justice Akuffo said pronouncement of guilt or otherwise is the prerogative of the court of competent jurisdiction in line with the Rule of Law.

She called for the intensification of legal education in areas of Constitutionalism and Constitutionality for journalists to understand the boundaries of public interest and privacy so that they would not arbitrarily infringe on the rights of individuals under the pretext of public interest.

The Chief Justice said advancement of technology had become crucial in the work of journalists, but cautioned them not to abuse it under the pretext of public interest to invade the privacy of others.

She called on the GJA to periodically review its Code of Ethics to be in sync with the changing trends.

Roland Affail Monney, the GJA President, said Ghana has, over the years, made significant progress with regard to press freedom and had moved from second place to first in Africa.

This notwithstanding, journalists are sometimes abused unlawfully in the course of executing their duties, he added.

He called on stakeholders, especially the Ghana Police Service, to punish the culprits to serve as deterrent to others.

“The media attacks on journalists, if not checked, can pollute the oxygen of press freedom in the country,” he said.

On welfare of journalists, Mr Monney said the leadership of GJA had engaged with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to improve the wellbeing of members.

He said the Association had rolled out an insurance scheme and commenced a housing project for the members to solve the accommodation problems they face.