Upholding the pillars of democracy: The role of PR practitioners in ensuring press freedom


May 3rd is marked as World Press Freedom Day. The Ghana Journalists’ Association (GJA) celebrated the Day on the theme ‘Freedom of expression: A driver for all human rights for Ghana’s development’. It is a Day celebrated annually to raise awareness of press freedom as well as to remind governments about their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression, as enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Press Freedom is a fundamental principle of modern democracy, allowing journalists to investigate and report on pressing issues without fear. The fight for freedom is ongoing and multifaceted, involving associations such as the Ghana Journalists’ Association (GJA), media organisations, civil society groups and concerned citizens.

It is important to note that Public Relations (PR) practitioners also play a crucial role in upholding press freedom by facilitating transparent and honest communication between their organisations and the media.

As PR practitioners work closely with the media to bring organisational stories into the limelight, and as part of the fight for freedom, it is a good time to reflect on ways PR practitioners can also support press freedom.

 Foster a culture of transparency

PR practitioners remain a primary source of information about the organisation for media and journalists. It is therefore prudent to ensure that we are transparent with information about the organisation’s modus operandi and practices. It may be tempting to hold back data or information in a bid to deliver sound stories worthy of coverage in our favour, but this goes a long way to erode media-organisational trust. Trust is built with journalists when the issues presented to them are factual, accurate, and correct.   

Respect the media’s independence

By respecting the independence of journalists, PR practitioners should refrain from trying to influence or control the media’s editorial content and allow them to report on issues freely and objectively while providing them with the information they need to make informed decisions.

Act ethically

The Code of Ethics of the Institute of Public Relations Ghana (IPR-Ghana) provides guidance to PR practitioners in Ghana for their interactions with the media. The Code focuses on integrity, transparency, confidentiality and independence; and PR practitioners should actualise these principles in their dealings with media and avoid using deceptive tactics to influence media coverage.

Be responsive and honest

Journalists reach out to PR practitioners for information and to verify news they may have come across about the organisation, hence PR practitioners should be responsive to media inquiries by providing them with timely and accurate information for coverage. PR practitioners also reach out to journalists to debunk stories or headlines about their organisations they believe are inaccurate. In correcting errors, we must remember to pursue the truth even if it will have an impact on our performance or organisation.

Support media freedom

PR practitioners should support media freedom by advocating for policies and practices that protect and promote press freedom. When there is press freedom, journalists can report on issues without fear of censorship.

Final thoughts

PR practitioners play a critical role in ensuring press freedom through integrity, professionalism, confidentiality and independence. By upholding these principles, PR practitioners can help build a democratic society that values the free-flow of information and the freedom of journalists to report on issues without fear.  

>>>the writer is a Communications & PR Professional. She is Ann Adjasah on LinkedIn

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