We cannot pretend that all is well with our democracy. Ghana’s democracy is seriously threatened, and we must face the stark reality and address it or get ready to sing the doomsday’s dirge and follow the pallbearers when they carry the last living being of our democracy to the grave. I am talking about increasing hostilities against journalists and the threat to the lives of journalists.
Ghana’s democracy has not borne the needed fruits. For nearly three decades of uninterrupted democracy, we have not been able to solve the most basic of our problems. We have not been able to address our sanitation challenges. Our drainage problems are worrying and when it rains, floods kill people and destroy property.
Potable drinking water remains a luxury for some Ghanaians. Patients still die in hospitals because there are no beds and other basic consumables. Some school children still study under trees while others die under the falling walls of weak school buildings. Corruption remains an industry with a sustained and predictable growth rate.
A graduate who completes university is today is more hopeless about getting a job than in 1993 when we ushered in our current democratic dispensation. The rule of law is a cardinal principle of democracy, but in Ghana today, laws are not enforced and the average person who walks into a police station after being violated cannot be assured of justice.
In all of this, however, we have taken solace in the fact that we can speak freely. That is what separates us from despotic regimes. Unfortunately, however, this free speech is being threatened. Last year a journalist was killed. A number of journalists have witnessed attacks in recent times. A number of radio stations were shut down in a move that was suspicious.
Two weeks ago, gun-wielding operatives of the National Security raided the offices of Modernghana.com, seized their phones, computers and other working tools and arrested two journalists who were allegedly tortured while in custody for more than 48 hours. Till date, the two have not been charged with any crime.
What is scary about the current trend is the involvement of state actors. Ironically, this is happening in the regime of a president whose claim to fame is his belief in the tenets of democracy such as free speech and the rule of law.
Mr. President, if you are yet to realise the sad spectacle in the media, then I want to tell you that journalists in Ghana today feel more threatened than any other time in the fourth republic. We have made progress and cannot afford to go back to the dark days of our culture. Free speech and a free media are the last pillars on which our weak democracy stands. If those pillars and being broken, then we are descending into something else. And you cannot pretend not to be seeing the obvious signs.