No Culture Of Silence in Ghana – Prez Akufo-Addo Replies Sam Jonah

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said Ghana has never returned to the era of ‘culture of silence’ where the media and citizens fear to speak out on national issues.

Speaking at the University of Cape Coast after receiving an honorary doctorate degree (Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership), Akufo-Addo said the media, in particular, has remained free under his watch including the protection of fundamental human rights.

“Since becoming president, there is nothing I have seen or experienced in the office that will make me change my long-held views on the importance of fundamental human rights. I have worked with civil society organisations and used their platforms to engage infamous arguments, healthy debates and I am not averse to the occasional controversy that is a necessary part of public life,” Akufo-Addo said.

“I have said so and I will say it again that I will much rather that we had a reckless press than a sparing one. I dare say that the atmosphere in our country is one of spirited conversation and debate among politicians, the business community, civil society organisations, and ordinary citizens through print, radio, television or in particular, social media, whether they are home or abroad. Indeed, I dare say that the means to get your voice heard has never been so democratised as now and long may it last,” Asaaseradio.com quoted him.

Sam Jonah lecture A senior citizen Sir Sam Jonah, who is incidentally the chancellor of the University of Cape Coast (UCC), in a public lecture on 23 April 2021 on the theme; “Down the Up Escalator: Reflections on Ghana’s Future by a Senior Citizen”, lamented that many individuals and civil society organisations that used to speak up against social ills have gone quiet in recent time.

“In the past, when all had failed, academia was the last vanguard. We all remember the role that the Legon Observer played. Under the hallowed cloak of academic freedom, men and women of conscience could write and speak words that penetrated the halls of power. It appears to me that in recent times in our fourth Republican dispensation, the courage to stand up for the truth and the determination to uphold the common good are lost. In our dark moments as a nation, it is concerning that the voices of the intellectuals are receding into oblivion. Sadly, it is a consequence of the deep partisan polarization of our country such that everything is seen through the lenses of politics. It appears to me that the culture of silence has returned. This time not enforced by legal and military power but through convenience, parochialism, hypocrisy and lack of conviction,” Mr. Jonah is reported to have said.

Tradition of press freedom

However, President Akufo-Addo in pressing home his point with Sir Sam Jonah, sitting just next to him in his capacity as the chancellor of the University of Cape Coast at the colourful ceremony indicated that “it cannot be that everyone has a right of a reply except members of the government and officialdom. Nor can it be that challenging an opinion expressed by a journalist constitutes an attack on press freedom. What I believe may be lacking sorely in our society today is the need to listen to each other more. Knowledge has never been a gift granted exclusively to one group. We must listen, and hear each other more”.

“And, for me, personally, I find it ironic that the Presidency of a man who has been and continues to be the most vilified political figure of his generation can be accused of presiding over a “culture of silence. There is no midnight knock on the door in Ghana for authors of dissenting views, nor will there be during my presidency,” Akufo-Addo noted.

“I belong to the Danquah – Dombo – Busia political tradition, one whose forebears, at great personal sacrifice, fought for the democratic, open, free system of government we are enjoying today in Ghana. They propagated the concept of democracy at a time when it was not, in Africa, a fashionable concept. Indeed, the philosophy of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) coincides with that of the Fourth Republican Constitution. It is the dominant political philosophy in the world today, and has stood the test of time,” Akufo-Addo stated.