Inaugural Lecture to be delivered by Prof. Audrey Gadzekpo

Thursday, April 28, 2022 - 17:00
Great Hall, University of Ghana, Legon


Inaugural Lecture to be delivered by Prof. Audrey Gadzekpo


Topic: Taking the Gown to Town: Reflections of a Scholar-Activist on Media in Ghana’s Democratic Journey

Date: April 28, 2022

Time: 5:00 pm

Venue: Great Hall

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Taking the Gown to Town: Reflections of a Scholar-Activist on Media in Ghana’s Democratic Journey

In a speech delivered before the Parliament of Ghana in 2009, US President Barrack Obama stressed the need for building stronger institutions to bolster democracy in Africa. He reminded his audience that an independent press, and institutions such as strong parliaments, honest police forces, independent judges, a vibrant private sector and civil society, are what “give life to democracy.” That notion of a well-functioning media as a cornerstone of liberal democracy is the rationale behind the strong provisions on the media contained in chapter 12 of the Ghanaian constitution.

From an almost de facto state monopolistic media system in the 1980s, Ghana now boasts one of the most liberal media environments on the continent. For the past five years, the country has ranked ahead of established democracies such as the U.S. and U.K. in the World Press Freedom Index as published by Reporters without Borders (RSF). Out of 180 countries, Ghana ranked 26th in 2017, 23rd in 2018, 27th in 2019, and 30th in both 2020 and 2021. Worthy of note is also the proliferation of media outlets throughout the country. By the fourth quarter of 2021, records from the National Communications Authority (NCA) showed there were 489 FM stations operational in all 16 regions of the country and 110 television stations on air. In addition, hundreds of newspapers are registered with the National Media Commission (NMC), even though those records are not entirely reliable. Energising this pluralistic media environment, is the ever-increasing availability of social media through mobile devices that enable many Ghanaians to readily access news and information. It is estimated that about 20 percent of the country’s population are active on social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. Such strong evidence of a vibrant and pluralistic media environment, however, fails to reveal the quality of the Ghanaian media and their capacity to live up to their democratic imperatives and it is this lacuna that motivates the discussions underpinning this paper.

From my position as a scholar-activist whose work has focused mainly on media and democracy, I examine the performance of the media in Ghana and the ways in which they have contributed to or undermined democratic governance. In this evaluative and reflective exercise, I also interrogate the context of media practice and the political economy under which the media must operate. My assessment draws from the methodological approaches of a variety of media performance frameworks, including UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators, the African Media Barometer, as well as theoretical positions advanced by media scholars on how journalism works or should function in democratic societies.

In my critique, I have contended with the legal and regulatory regime in Ghana and the constitutional provisions that offer strong protection for free expression and independent media. At the same time, I have raised concerns about developments that threaten free speech, journalists’ safety, and journalism practice. I also sound the alarm that the unresolved murder

of investigative journalist Ahmed Hussein-Suale and continuing attacks on journalists portends badly not only for the media, but democratic growth in Ghana.

Furthermore, even as I celebrate the existence of the Right to Information Act, which was passed in 2019, and recent rulings by the RTI Commission upholding our fundamental right to public information, I critique the absence of a broadcast law that could address regulatory challenges and guide professional practice in the broadcast sector.

I also laud developments that have led to a plethora of local language stations and enabled citizens to better express themselves in the public sphere, but problematise the many gendered aspects of media practice that continue to perpetuate inequalities in newsrooms as well as in the larger society.

Additionally, I confront critical and uncomfortable questions about the opacity of media ownership and how that masks the political capture of media, and address the precarity of media work that calls into question the viability and sustainability of legacy media in the country. I end by making recommendations on how the media can be strengthened to play their normative roles and how the environment in which they operate improved to support the nurturing of democratic growth in Ghana.


Audrey Gadzekpo, Ph.D. is a Professor of Communication Studies and former Dean of the School of Information and Communication Studies, University of Ghana. She has close to 30 years of experience teaching, researching and advocating on issues relating to media, gender, governance, and development.

She attended Achimota Primary School, and proceeded to Achimota Secondary School, where she obtained her Ordinary Level certificate, before pursuing her sixth form education at OLA Secondary School, Ho. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Ghana, a Master of Arts in Communications from Brigham Young University, Utah, USA and a Doctorate degree in African Studies from the University of Birmingham, U.K.

Her early career was as a journalist with The Indianapolis Recorder in Indiana, USA where she rose to become editor, before returning to Ghana and co-founding and editing the women’s magazine, AWO. She also wrote a regular socio-political column in the Ghanaian Chronicle and later the Mirror.

Since 1993, Professor Gadzekpo’s academic career has been centred primarily at the University of Ghana. She has also held adjunct positions at New York University in Ghana and at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ). She has served as a visiting scholar at the Program of African Studies, Northwestern University, U.S.; a guest researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden; and a research fellow of the Africa Oxford Initiative, University of Oxford, UK. She is also a regular guest lecturer at the Police Staff and Command College, Ghana Armed Forces Staff College, and the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre.



Professor Gadzekpo’s teaching portfolio includes courses such as print journalism, media and gender, health communication, media ethics, media culture and society, communicating climate change, communicating public policy, international communication, qualitative research methods in communication studies, and political communication.

Since 2015, she has also regularly taught at the Pan-African Doctoral Academy, University of Ghana, where she co-designed and co-teaches two training modules on ‘presentation skills’ and ‘communicating scientific results to academic and non-academic audiences.’


Professor Gadzekpo’s research focuses on the nexus between media, and concerns such as gender, health, climate change, democracy and governance, conflict, and history. She is currently engaged in COVID-19 related research with a team of international researchers and colleagues from Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research. She is also collaborating with partners from the University of Leeds and University of Nairobi on gender and climate change related research.

Extension and Training Activities

Professor Gadzekpo has conducted numerous training seminars, workshops, and lectures for organisations such as: the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG), Ghana Community Radio Network (GCRN), Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organisation (WHO), The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Bank, Ghana Institute of Consultants, Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), STAR-Ghana Foundation, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, European Union, Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Newmont-Ghana, Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Enterprise Group, Electoral Commission of Ghana, Ghana Statistical Service, and Trades Union Congress, Ghana.


Professor Gadzekpo has considerable experience engaging in media, gender, governance and behavioural change advocacy work. She has been involved in election monitoring in Ghana and other countries in Africa, anti-corruption campaigns and initiatives, empowerment of women initiatives, media development projects and initiatives, and health/environmental issues. For more than four years she chaired the Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee for Health Promotion (ICC-HP) in Ghana and was in 2006 a focal person for the Ghana Sustainable Change Project, a collaborative project with five institutions that led among other things, to the development of a health communication syllabus and training manual titled “Communication, behaviour change and health: A trainer’s manual.” She was also a member of the ‘Specialised Committee on Culture/Communication,’ for the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO from 1997-2000 and continues to collaborate with UNESCO on projects, most recently in the development of Media Development Indicators for Ghana and on Media and Information Literacy.


Professor Gadzekpo has served as a consultant on many communication/media related projects for organisations such as the International IDEA, the Public Information Unit, United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), World Bank, Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), UNICEF, UNESCO, UNDP, EU, Electoral Commission of Ghana, Institute of Policy Analysis (IPA), and Ghana Statistical Service. Most recently, she was the lead consultant for the National Risk Communication and Community Engagement Strategy for COVID-19 Pandemic in Ghana. She has also designed and facilitated workshops to support the media in the Gambia and Liberia to improve coverage of transitional justice processes.

Professor Gadzekpo was also part of a team of academics responsible for developing curricula for a Masters in Research and Public Policy (MRPP) Programme for the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), which was rolled out in 12 African universities. She also served as the governance expert for Ghana on the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), UK, Mwananchi action learning programme aimed at strengthening citizen engagement with governments in seven African countries.

Editorial Boards

In addition to serving on numerous boards and committees at the University of Ghana, Professor Gadzekpo is on international editorial boards including: African Journalism studies, Feminist Media Studies, and the Journal of African Media Studies (JAMS). For several years, she was also co-editor of the Codesria journal titled African Media Review. She has also edited or been co-editor of special issue journals, including: the Ada special issue on ‘Emerging Gender, Media and Technology Scholarship in Africa’; the African Journalism Studies issue on ‘Journalism and Foreign Aid in Africa’ and the African Communication Research issue on ‘The image of women in African media.’ Professor Gadzekpo is also a reviewer for a variety of scholarly manuscripts.

Governing Boards

Professor Gadzekpo currently chairs the board of Panos West Africa (PIWA), a media development organisation based in Senegal, and is vice-chairperson of the board of the Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana). She also serves on the boards of the following organisations: West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR) in Senegal; Centre for Journalism, Innovation & Development (CJID) in Nigeria; Solidaridad Continental Supervisory Board for Africa; STAR-Ghana Foundation; GHACEM Foundation, Webster University-Ghana Campus, and Tema International School (TIS). She is also patron of the Alliance for Women in the Media (AWMA).

In the past, she has chaired the board of the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) and served on several other boards and commissions, including: The National Media Commission (NMC), Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, Ghana News Agency, Public Agenda Newspaper, Vodafone Foundation, Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design (JACCD), and African Literature Centre in Kitwe, Zambia.

Professor Gadzekpo is the second of four children born to Fred Gadzekpo (deceased) and Margaret Gadzekpo. She is anchored by two brothers – Frank and Keli –, her sister Sese, and two daughters – Nubuke and Paulina. Link to full CV is available at: