Gabby Otchere-Darko’s Claim on Press Freedom Misleading

Gabby Otchere-Darko, a leading member of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and Senior Partner of Africa Legal Associates, on June 2, 2021, tweeted about the press freedom situation in the United States of America.

He claimed that despite a reported bad record of journalist killings in the US, the data is not used to suggest that media freedom in the country is under attack.

Mr Otchere-Darko made the claim a few days after President Akufo-Addo had challenged assertions that a culture of silence is creeping into the country at an event at the University of Cape Coast.

Gabby Otchere-Darko said many attacks have been witnessed in the United States of America, leading to the deaths of six journalists in four years, but the records are never used to indicate that the press is under attack.

Mr Otchere-Darko made the claim a few days after Prez Akufo-Addo had challenged assertions that there’s a culture of silence in the country| Credit: Otchere-Darko’s Twitter account

“In just three years, between 2015 and 2018, six journalists were killed in the United States alone. Two are as a result of being on dangerous assignments and four were murdered. Interestingly, the data is never used to suggest that press freedom is under attack in America” the tweet read.

Fact-Check Ghana has verified the claim and concludes that it is misleading. Below is the explanation.

The photo Mr Otchere-Darko shared in his tweet is a screenshot of the data on the number of journalists who have been murdered since 1992, compiled by the Committee for Protection of Journalists (CPJ). The CPJ reports that since 1992, 11 journalists have been killed in the US.

Contrary to Mr Otchere Darko’s claim, the CPJ, based on their records, has bemoaned attacks on Press Freedom and the worsening safety of journalists situation in the US in many reports.

In one of such reports, the CPJ in its 2020 annual report that tallies the number of journalists imprisoned around the world, labeled press freedom in the US as “marred”.

In another report, the Programme Director of CPJ’s US Freedom and Accountability Project, Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in a statement, criticised the danger of attacks on the media in the US.

“For the past four years, the Trump administration has lobbed attacks against individual and institutional news media. As the world has now witnessed, this rhetoric is not just a political diversion — it can embolden mobs to attack reporters who are simply trying to do their job of keeping the public informed,” Martinez de la Serna said.

Fact-Check Ghana further compiled a list of research papers and reports about the ever-growing trend of abuse of journalists and the call for the protection of the First Amendment in the United States of America using data from these attacks. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In 2016, Reporters Without Borders condemned then Candidate Donald Trump for his attacks on the first amendment, stating that “his actions in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election mark an alarming trend of curtailing freedom of the press in the United States.”

RSF condemned Donald Trump for his attacks on the First Amendment| Credit: CTV News

On June 1, 2020, again Reporters Without Borders listed 68 incidents of attacks on journalists by Police and protestors in the United States and the arrest of a CNN Journalist live on Television on May 29, 2020.

Following this, the organisation called for caution by authorities to ensure the safety of journalists.

“RSF calls for urgent action by US authorities to ensure the safety of journalists covering the continuing protests, including a moratorium on the arrests of journalists and immediate guidance to police making it clear that journalists are not to be shot at or otherwise directly targeted by crowd-control measures, and that journalists must be protected from violent attacks by protesters.

“President Trump’s demonization of the media for years has now come to fruition, with both the police and protesters targeting clearly identified journalists with violence and arrests,” said Christophe Deloire, RSF’s secretary-general.

“It has long been obvious that this demonization would lead to physical violence. RSF has warned about the consequences of this blatant hostility towards the media, and we are now witnessing an unprecedented outbreak of violence against journalists in the US. RSF calls on all US authorities to ensure the full protection of journalists and honor the country’s founding principles in respecting press freedom,” Deloire added.

On June 16, 2020, US-based Freedom House, Freedomhouse.org, labeled as an attack of the press US President Donald Trump administration’s decision to bar Voice of America journalists from covering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and said it’s a risk for press freedom at home and abroad.

“Efforts to blacklist VOA journalists from interview requests to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are an unprecedented attack on press freedom in the United States.”

 The United States ranks 44 on the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Again, a 2020 Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press report on the United States noted that journalists and news organisations across the United States faced record numbers of physical attacks, arrests, and cases of equipment damage, as well as many other press freedom violations, according to the Reporters Committee’s fourth annual report analysing data from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

The report added that in 2020, “journalists faced flagrant and targeted violence by both police and private individuals at protests at a frightening scale. Although journalists have been attacked by both groups at protests in the past, 2020 saw a marked increase in such attacks, a culmination of the increasingly hostile landscape the press has faced in recent years.”

A DW report in 2020 has also bemoaned the continuous attack on Press Freedom in the United States.

“The violence, hate and mockery aimed at the media in the United States reflect how freedom of the press is being eroded. Donald Trump’s anti-media strategy is also finding imitators in other Western democratic states” part of the report reads.

The reports, therefore, indicate that the worrying data on the press freedom situation in the US has been used by numerous organisations to indicate that the media is under attack.

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