President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has given a firm assurance that the protection of fundamental human rights and press freedom is a major priority of his government and that he will never endorse the culture of silence.
He said ensuring human rights and press freedom was what he stood for in line with the tenets of the 1992 Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression, respect for the rule of law, freedom, and justice that must be defended at all times.
The President stated this in his acceptance remarks at a Special Congregation to confer on him an honorary doctorate in Philosophy in Educational Leadership by the University of Cape Coast (UCC) on Saturday.
The ceremony, attended by high profile personalities, including, Members of Convocation, Traditional Rulers, Members of Parliament, Diplomatic Corps, Ministers of States and other dignitaries, was given a traditional touch with the blowing of the ‘mmenson’ flutes to usher the dignitaries into the New Examination Centre.
The President becomes the 40th personality and the second sitting President to receive such an honorary award from the UCC after former President John Agyekum Kuffour.
He was decorated jointly by Dr (Sir) Sam Jonah, Chancellor and Professor Johnson Nyarkoh Boampong, Vice-Chancellor of UCC with an academic gown and a cap, attracting endless applause from the audience.
The President was also given a Doctor of Letters and a citation while the VC presented him a special gift of his framed photograph.
The President used the occasion to highlight his involvement in the struggle for individual rights and freedom of the press in the country in the 1990s, stressing that he had played a significant role in achieving this and had nothing to apologize for.
“I appreciate well-argued opinions that challenged the status quo. I need no lessons on the importance of vigorous media in building a healthy democracy. I dare say that the atmosphere in our country is one of spirited conversation and debate among politicians, the business community, civil society organizations and ordinary citizens,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo said he would not relent in ensuring that the killers of Ahmed Suale were apprehended and brought to book since it remained a matter of great regret to him that circumstances surrounding Suale’s murder had not been unravelled.
“The government has no interest to cover up whoever or whatever was involved in the murder of the journalist, in the end, his murderers will be caught, tried and punished,” he said.
He said one of the powerful tools for journalists and ordinary citizens was the Right to Information Act, 2019(Act 989), which was passed and assented to by him to empower journalists and deepen press freedom, free speech, and free access to information.
The President urged all to prioritize the country’s human resources to fulfil the dreams and aspirations of the forefathers in bringing freedom and dignity to all.
President Akufo-Addo stated emphatically that an opinion or view of one journalist could not constitute a tag on press freedom, adding that his government was not practising a culture of silence
He said the government was willing and focused on improving lives and supporting young entrepreneurs to enhance national development
Dr Sam Jonah, in his welcoming address, applauded the President for the decision to implement the Free SHS initiative, which he described as the boldest social intervention ever taken in the country.
That, he indicated, convinced the University to honour the President with the doctorate award to empower him to do more exploits to develop the country.