Media of Ghana - History - Post Independence

Post Independence

Following the March 6, 1957 declaration of independence by Ghana from the United Kingdom, there were only around 4 newspapers. Leader Kwame Nkrumah eventually controlled all the press in Ghana and saw it as an instrument of state authority, providing propaganda which encouraged national unity and creating a hierarchal system of state apparatus to manage the media. Transfer of the media had changed hands from a civilian to a military government, and a series of arrests and imprisonment of political opponents by Nkrumah had a chilling effect on the media. The opposition Ashanti Pioneer which had operated since the 1930s was shut down by Nkrumah after being subject to censorship. After Nkrumah's overthrow in a coup, many state outlets changed hands, though still under the control of the ruling party. The National Liberation Council imposed stricter controls on domestic private outlets, for example the Rumours Decree in 1966 which prevented anyone from suing government owned newspapers .

In 1969, the democratically elected civilian government of Kofi Busia that followed the NLC were left with a large number of media outlets under state control. Busia repealled various acts and dismissed the owner of the state owned Daily Graphic for opposing Busia who had appealed for African dialogue with the apartheid government in South Africa. However, when Ignatius Kutu Acheampong overthrew the Busia government, he reinstated strict media control and clamped down on opposition outlets by cutting off foreign exchange. However, a number of opposition media remained unimpeded during the Acheampong regime, and by 1978, had grown in their calls for a multi-party democracy in Ghana.

The regime of Acheampong was overthrown in May 1978 by General Akuffo, who reversed some of his predecessors media policies and released jailed journalists and opposition members. This led to the establishment of two party papers: the Star of the Popular Front Party (PFP) and the Gong Gong of the People's National Party (PNP). The Akuffo regime was short lived, ending in another coup d'état by the AFRC headed by Jerry Rawlings, who repealed the press laws that were passed by Acheampong. Rawlings replaced the chief editor of the Daily Graphic who criticised the AFRC executions, though they had no authority to do so as it undermined the Constitution of the Third Republic, which stated they had to be replaced by the Press Commission. After eight months of the AFRC regime, which had promised media reform but in the end did not materialise, power was returned to the democratically elected PNP with Hilla Limann on September 24, 1979. Limann was an advocate of liberal media reform, establishing a 12 member Press Commission on July 25, 1980. In a speech he said:

I shall, as elected President of Ghana, be forever prepared to submit to the acid test of public judgement the claims of those who may think that they represent the public more than me or any other political leader. Bluff, snobbery and arrogance on all sides must now cease, so that the Press Commission can function in a way that it has been envisaged by those who have never had any personal axe to grind. I have long been one of the protaganists myself. Since the functions of the Press Commission have clearly been spelt out in the Constitution, I can do no more than reassure its members and our journalists that my government will respect, uphold and defend the Constitution and thus do everything in our power to help the Press Commission discharge its obligation, in the overall interest of the public to which we are all to varying degrees accountable.

The Press Commission, as enshrined in law, were to investigate complaints about the press, uphold press freedom and provide necessary regulation and licensing to media outlets. During Limann's rule, he respected the new Constitution and accepted criticism from the media. This did not last long however, as John Rawlings, citing "corruption and maladministration", once again seized power under the Provisional National Defence Council on December 31, 1981, and repealed the liberal media reforms instigated by Limann. Under the new government, the Third Constitution, along with the Press Commission, was abolished. Through the state owned Daily Graphic on January 5, 1982, he told the press to lead the "Holy War" and direct the revolution. Rawlings passed laws that prevented criticism of the government or its policies, dismissed editors critical of him and passed various laws such as the Preventive Custody Law and Newspaper Licensing Law which allowed indefinite detention without trial of journalists, and stifled private media development respectively. The PNDC Secretary of Information Joyce Aryee in 1983 defended direct government control:

I don't see the press as lying outside the political institutions that we already have. This is where I feel people ought to realise that the press differs from country to country. In a situation like ours, where we need to conscientize people, and where we have an illiteracy problem, you use institutions like the press to do the conscientization.

The policies not only affected print media but also the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, with several dismissals or premature retirement. As a result, some media avoided all discussions of politics altogether and focused on other topics like sport or entertainment instead.

Read more about this topic:  Media Of Ghana, History

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