Free speech in Ghana “being muzzled”

The Media Foundation of West Africa along with three other media organisations has called on the government to annul aspects of two laws which continue to criminalise free expression, even though Ghana repealed its criminal libel law two decades ago.

The call which was made by the MFWA together with the Ghana Journalists Association, Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association and the Private Newspapers Publishers Association of Ghana, specified the Electronic Communications Act and the Criminal and Other Offences Act.

The Foundation argues that certain provisions of the laws, originally targeted at the publication of false information, have continuously been used by authorities to harass, arrest and prosecute journalists.

“We recognise that the media and journalists can sometimes be reckless and unprofessional to the extent of publishing false and defamatory stories. Fortunately, the laws of the country provide aggrieved entities remedies for civil actions against citizens, journalists and media organisations,” it said in a statement.

“It is regrettable, therefore, that repressive provisions of the Electronic Communications Act and the Criminal and other offences Act are being weaponised to muzzle free speech,” said the President of the Journalists Association, Albert Kwabena Dwumfour, pictured above. He demanded that the laws be repealed.

President’s family allegations

The call comes in the wake of the recent detention of a Radio Ada journalist, Noah Dameh, over a Facebook post concerning a business mogul and CEO of the McDan Group of companies, Daniel McKorley. His company, Electrochem, has been facing criticism over the controversial awarding of a contract by the government to mine salt at Ada in Ghana’s Greater Accra Region.

Noah Dameh has been in and out of detention after he was first charged with publishing false news in August 2022 and subsequently remanded in custody in March 2023.

He has not been the only victim. In February 2022, the Police arrested Accra FM journalist Kwabena Bobbie Ansah on a charge of publication of false news and offensive conduct for a video he posted on social media which claimed that the President’s wife had illegally acquired state lands.

The Executive Director of an anti-corruption organization, Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability, Mensah Thompson, was also arrested for publishing allegations that members of the President’s family travelled by the Presidential jet to the UK for shopping.

The coalition of media organisations points out that these arrests and prosecutions are totally unbecoming of the government led by President Akufo-Addo, who oversaw the repeal of the criminal libel law when he was Attorney General in a previous administration. The press conference also reminded the President about his position on the disputed laws, which he himself once called unconstitutional.

“Our job is basically to remind him that, Mr. President, these were your views, we are still operating the same constitution, we are still talking about the same laws and these positions that you upheld are basically what we are saying we are in support of. You know we support you and we want you to take action in line with your convictions at that time,” said Mr. Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director of the Foundation.