Arrest of journos a blot on Ghana’s fledging democracy – CMG

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The management of Class Media Group (CMG), has expressed concerns about the arrest of one of its workers, Bobbie Ansah by the Police on Thursday February 10.

A statement issued by the managements said the emerging trend where the Ghana Police Service are readily unleashed on journalists for discharging their work is a blot on Ghana’s fledgling democracy and status as a bastion of media freedom in West Africa and Africa as a whole.

Explaining the reasons for the arrest, the Police said Bobbie was picked up in connection with an alleged case of publication of false news and offensive conduct.

“His arrest became necessary after he turned down several invitations from the Police to him and others involved in the case to assist with investigation,” the Police said in a statement on Friday February 11.

But in statement by CMG, the management indicated that “On February 3, 2022, the National Media Commission (NMC) wrote to Accra
FM regarding a petition it had received from The Rebecca Foundation regarding ‘pronouncements made on Accra FM regarding the Foundation and its Executive Director.’ The NMC said the complaint bothered on pronouncements of Mr Ansah on the Citizen Show on Accra FM on January 11, 2022. (b) Since then Mr Ansah and the station have been cooperating with the Commission on the petition.

“We, therefore, find it gravely concerning that the Police Service have gotten involved in a matter that was being duly handled by the NMC, the Constitutional body mandated to address concerns of this nature. Indeed, the actions of the Ghana Police Service on this matter and in recent times regarding journalists and media practitioners in general leave much to be desired.

“The emerging trend where the Ghana Police Service are readily unleashed on journalists for discharging their work is a blot on our fledgling democracy and status as a bastion of media freedom in West Africa and Africa as a whole. It is not surprising that Ghana is currently ranked 30th on the World Press Freedom Index. Just like 2021, Ghana occupied the 30th position in 2020. That 30th spot, out of the
180 countries assessed, is Ghana’s worst rank in almost a decade on the index released by Reporters Without Borders. Interestingly, the 2021 report made copious reference to the increasing aggression by the Police to undermine the work of journalists.”

The arrest of journalists has become a major concern for Former President John Dramani Mahama.

He has condemned what he believes is the growing criminalization of free speech and journalism under the watch of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

Mr Mahama said in a letter to Mr Akufo-Addo who he described as his brother that “I fear that if you do not take immediate action to arrest this unfortunate trend, when you exit the high office of President in January 2025, freedom of speech and a free media will certainly not be counted as part of the legacy you leave behind.”

Below is Mr Mahama’s letter to President Akufo-Addo…

Dear President Nana Akufo-Addo, I am appalled at the growing criminalisation of speech and journalism in Ghana, under your watch, in this 21st century.

An investigative journalist was murdered, under very troubling circumstances. Yet, while the Ghanaian people and the international community have demanded justice, Government’s inability or unwillingness to act is obvious to all. The police have virtually shelved the investigations into this brutal murder.

There have also been several disturbing incidents of harassment of journalists in the line of duty; we have witnessed media establishments closed down on your instructions, despite many appeals to you. Now, in a space of less than two weeks, four people have suffered police action, criminalizing their right to free speech.

As Attorney General, at the time, who led the repeal of the criminal libel law, in order that citizens could freely express their views, it is unconscionable to be suppressing the rights and criminalising the speech of citizens and journalists. It is even more worrying when the power of the state is used as a pliant tool in this intimidating endeavour.

Radio and TV presenter Captain Smart was dragged from court, and although he had been granted bail, sent into detention. Another radio presenter, Oheneba Boamah Bennie has been incarcerated for statements he allegedly made.

A civil society activist was arrested, detained, sent to court on criminal charges, granted bail and yet detained again for making a statement against you, President Akufo-Addo.

As if to suggest insincerity behind the serious decriminalization of speech that you led, another radio presenter, Bobie Ansah, has been arrested, detained and charged– criminalized for speaking and making allegations against your wife. Again, last week, security personnel linked to your party brutalized a radio presenter and producer in the city of Takoradi.

Such lawless attacks have today become common occurrences in our country. President Akufo-Addo, you cannot continue to oppress the people, criminalize speech when these matters are essentially civil in nature, if you feel offended by them.

It is even more sad that the Journalists Association and its senior members, many of our clergy and other moral leaders, scared because of the oppressive and dictatorial regime you are running, have remained quiet in the face of this disturbing development in our maturing democracy.

This is a dangerous blueprint you are fashioning for our dear nation and it must not be encouraged. Your actions as President have totally discredited your self-acquired accolade as a human rights lawyer and activist. Ghana has long emerged from the unfortunate past where journalists were cowed by incarceration and brutalization.

I fear that if you do not take immediate action to arrest this unfortunate trend, when you exit the high office of President in January 2025, freedom of speech and a free media will certainly not be counted as part of the legacy you leave behind.

Your brother, John Dramani Mahama.

By Laud Nartey|3news.com|Ghana

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