As the world marks World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2024, environmental group, Eco-Conscious Citizens has called on all responsible citizens to solidarize with journalists in Ghana who have risked their lives to expose the destructive effects of illegal mining. Despite numerous exposés, features, and documentaries, illegal mining continues to ravage Ghana's environment, and journalists who dare to speak out are being silenced. Sir Sam Jonah, a renowned figure, recently expressed concern that illegal mining was no longer making headlines, suggesting that journalists have done their part in exposing the issue. However, the Eco-Conscious Citizens argue that more needs to be done to protect these journalists and ensure that their stories lead to tangible action. "Journalists have faced threats, intimidation, and attacks for reporting on illegal mining, and the group is calling for investigations and prosecutions of high-profile individuals involved in the practice. The perception that government officials, political party members, and traditional leaders are complicit or benefiting from illegal mining has created a culture of impunity, and journalists feel isolated and vulnerable when they dare to speak out", the group said in a statement to mark the World Press Freedom Day on the theme a Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis” .
Below is the full statement by Eco-Conscious Citizens
As we mark the Day, the Eco-Conscious Citizens environmental group calls on all responsible citizens to stand in solidarity with journalists in Ghana who have put their lives on the line to expose the canker of illegal mining that is destroying Ghana. On 17th April at the 75th Anniversary of the Ghana Journalists Association, Sir Sam Jonah expressed concern that illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey, was no longer making headlines. One could argue that journalists have done their bit with exposés, interviews, features, documentaries including 'Destruction for Gold', 'Poisoned for Gold', and by highlighting the fact that Prof. Frimpong Boateng's report on illegal mining had been left without an official response and gathering dust in the President's Office. Journalists have highlighted the poisoning of our water bodies, the destruction of our forest reserves and farm lands, the increase in maternal deaths, children born with deformities, and the rise in kidney and liver diseases in galamsey areas. What we need now is to restore public confidence and the political will to deal with the perpetrators. We need investigations of high profile persons involved in illegal mining, regardless of what political party they belong to, followed by prosecutions and convictions. We should also ask ourselves what we are doing to protect journalists who have come under attack for reporting illegal mining and exposing high profile persons behind it. The perception is that illegal mining is thriving because there are Government Ministers, District Chief Executives, Assemblymen, Party Members, and Chiefs actively involved or complicit. Our journalists feel isolated when they are targeted and threatened by powerful persons engaged in, complicit, or benefiting from illegal mining. Journalists have been targeted, threatened or gagged, and we will in due course name and shame some of these persons who are silencing our journalists. This week, the Assembly man at Nzema Aiyinase and others made a Citizen's Arrest of Chinese and Ghanaian illegal miners destroying their land. The matter was reported to Aiyinase Police Station and we are monitoring the situation. Our information is that the Assemblyman is receiving threatening telephone calls. The calls can be traced. We call on the Police to investigate the matter and prosecute persons making threats. We hope the illegal miners who were taken to Aiyinase Police station have not gone back to destroying the land. We have had reports where illegal miners arrested in Assemkrom were released and went straight back to their illegal mining activities. Illegal mining is poisoning and destroying Ghana, and Ghanaians need to be angry enough to stop it. Communities need to come together to protect their environment from being poisoned and destroyed by illegal mining. Those in urban areas can also demonstrate their concern now, and not wait until there is a noticeable concern with the water coming through their taps or the foodstuffs that reach their supermarkets. World Press Freedom Day is an opportunity to highlight the dangers journalists and ordinary citizens face when they expose issues powerful persons want silenced. Let's be active citizens and not spectators. Let's expose those poisoning our waterbodies and destroying our land and forests for gold. The Eco-Conscious Citizens environmental group stands in solidarity with journalists who have put their lives on the line to expose wrong doing and call for their protection. Awula Serwah Eco-Conscious Citizens founder/coordinator 0201 811 702