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Media Freedom and Access to Information: Ghana

Ghana expands freedom of press and media through 2019 freedom of information law (2019-ongoing)

April 17, 2024
Author: Amanda Lenhardt
King’s College London

Ghana’s 1992 constitution introduced freedom of speech and expression, including freedom of press and media, overturning decades of censorship and paving the way for an open and inclusive media environment that contributed to more accountability and public debate. Further, Criminal Libel and Seditious Libel laws were overturned in 2001, while a 2019 law enshrined the right of access to information. In 2018 Ghana was ranked first in Africa for press freedom.

Prior to the introduction of freedom of speech in the 1992 constitution, Ghana’s media landscape was characterized as monolithic and repressive, with laws in place that were used to control and censor the press.1 When Ghana’s Fourth Republic was formed, the new constitution included an entire chapter on freedom of speech. Article 162 states that: “there shall be no impediments to the establishment of private press and media, there shall be no law requiring any person to obtain a license as a prerequisite to the establishment or operation of a newspaper, journal or other media for mass communication or information”, adding that “editors and publishers of newspapers and other institutions of the mass media shall not be penalized or harassed for their editorial opinions and views, or the content of their publications.”2

These reforms allowed for the expansion of media outlets in Ghana and enabled improved access to more diverse sources of information and opinion for Ghanaians.

In 2001, Criminal Libel and Seditious Libel laws that allowed for the prosecution of journalists who spoke out against the government were repealed. Additionally, in 2019, the government introduced a law on access to information making it possible for journalists to demand information from the government which is deemed to be of national interest. The law establishes the right to apply for information from a public institution without having to give a reason, leaving space for limitations to this request in the interest of national security, public safety and personal information. Since the law’s adoption, over 1000 requests have been submitted, 838 of which were granted according to the Information Minister.3 There is however a clause in the law that allows for a fee to be charged which has led to prohibitive fees in some instances. There have been recent attempts to regulate these fees.


Ghana’s reforms around media freedom came about as part of the country’s wider transition to democracy in the 1990s. Media freedom was seen as a critical component for multi-party democracy to take root. These reforms have been credited as forming the basis for a pluralistic media environment in Ghana where there are at least 100 media outlets across radio, television, and online platforms ranging from the state-owned Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, private independent media outlets, and community radio stations.4

As of 2020, there were 459 authorized radio broadcast stations in Ghana, including broadcasting in local and/or Indigenous languages, expanding access to information and public debate to communities that had previously been excluded from civic discourse. Community and regional radio stations actively engage the public on political issues and have created platforms for “higher participation in civil and political conversations and greater scrutiny of local officials.”5 The state television station, GTV, also broadcasts programs in all major Indigenous languages, promoting the inclusion and diversity in public discourse.


The cost of constitutional reforms and legal changes to promote press freedom and access to information in Ghana is not available, but the direct costs are expected to be minimal.


Ghana is considered one of the most democratic countries in Africa, and the country’s open and pluralistic media landscape has been credited with promoting active civic engagement and greater political transparency. A high profile religious leader critical of Ghana’s press freedom recently noted, alongside his critique, that “today you will find a vibrant media environment where journalists expose corruption, highlight incompetence and crime, and demand a measure of accountability from the powerful.”6 The latest Reporters Without Borders review of Ghana’s media, while also critical of recent developments, notes that “there’s a general cultural and religious tolerance in the country, allowing journalists to cover all social issues without any particular difficulty and without fear of reprisals.”7

Open media platforms have been used by citizens to provoke social and political change in Ghana. In May 2021, for example, a youth-led movement called #FixTheCountry emerged on social media and has become a vehicle to bring wide-ranging demands from marginalized groups to the attention of public officials.”8

While Ghana’s media is considered to be broadly inclusive owing to its diversity and accessibility, some critical perspectives remain shut out for fear of political repercussions or public scrutiny.9 There are concerns around media ownership, with one third of outlets being owned by politicians or people affiliated with the country’s dominant political parties, and the content they produce has been judged to be largely partisan.10 State-owned media are also regularly awarded government advertising contracts and paid for publishing news items.11

There has also been a rise in attacks and coercion of journalists in Ghana in recent years. In 2019, the Media Foundation for West Africa recorded 31 attacks on 40 journalists in the 18 preceding months.12 In February 2022, three journalists were detained and a fourth violently attacked while politicians have made death threats against investigative journalists. 13 Ghana’s ranking on press freedom indices has dropped significantly in recent years.

Stack of newspapers. ©Adobe Stock/minoandriani