• Albert Kwabena Dwumfuor (left), President, Ghana Journalists Association, addressing the press conference. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA
• Albert Kwabena Dwumfuor (left), President, Ghana Journalists Association, addressing the press conference. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA

Media coalition calls for repeal of regressive laws

A coalition of media organisations in Ghana have called for the immediate repeal of sections of the Electronic Communications and  Criminal Offences Acts that are being used to intimidate journalists in the country.

They condemned the steady rise in the usage of these two laws against journalists, emphasising that they repressed freedom of speech and expression.

The coalition is made up of representatives of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), the Private Newspaper Publishers Association (PRINPAG) and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA).

Leading the coalition in a media engagement at the International Press Centre yesterday, the President of the GJA, Albert Kwabena Dwumfour, bemoaned the rate where people with influence were hiding behind these two laws to level criminal charges against journalists for press and speech offences when there were civil remedies available.

Present at the engagement were the Executive Director of the MFWA, Sulemana Braimah, President of the GIBA, Cecil Sunkwa-Mills and Executive Secretary of PRINPAG, Nii Laryea Sowah.

Also present were the GJA General Secretary, Edmund Kofi Yeboah, the GJA Public Relations Officer, Rebecca Ekpe and Deputy Editor, the Graphic Business, Charles Benoni Okine, who is also the Greater Accra GJA Regional Chairman.

The laws

Section 76 of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775) states:  “A person who by means of electronic communications service, knowingly sends a communication which is false or misleading and likely to prejudice the efficiency of life-saving service or to endanger the safety of any person, ship, aircraft, vessel or vehicle commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than three thousand penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not more than five years or both”.

Similarly, Section 208 of the Criminal and Other Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) also provides: “A person who publishes or reproduces a statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace knowing or having reason to believe that the statement, rumour or report is false commits a misdemeanor”.

Repression of Freedom of expression

Mr Dwumfuor explained that  the press engagement was triggered by the recent detention of Radio Ada’s Noah Nartey Dameh, who was detained by the police for seven days on the charge of false publication in connection with a critical Facebook post.  

He said despite the assurances from President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo that media freedom and safety of journalists were paramount, there was rising concern of intimidation among media practitioners.

 He said with libel decriminalised and the President’s public declaration in 2011 on the susceptible nature on the use of such laws, it was worrying that those laws were steadily being used in Ghana.

"The repression of freedom of expression using the law on false publication likely to cause fear and panic undercuts the publicly expressed view of President Akufo-Addo who during a conference at the University of Pretoria in August 2011,  lamented that such laws are susceptible to broad and abusive interpretation.

"In the face of the increasing use of this law to target critical journalists under President Akufo-Addo’s regime, we may well ask the question: “What has changed?”  Mr Dwumfour quizzed.

Upholding standards

The GJA president stated that the coalition recognised that the media and journalists could sometimes be reckless and unprofessional to the extent of publishing false and defamatory stories.

However, there were other channels of redress other than the use of the repressive laws.
Acknowledging this challenge,  

Mr Dwumfour noted that the various groups were committed to promoting professional standards in the media and he urged all journalists and media houses to uphold the highest level of integrity and professionalism.

" We will not hesitate to call out any journalist or media organisation that indulges in flagrant violation of the professional ethics and standards.

“This is in view of the recognition that press freedom and indeed, all other forms of freedoms, go with responsibility and the duty to respect public sensibilities, human dignity and public interest," he said.

The GJA president further asserted that it was due to the wanton arrest and detention of journalists that Ghana dropped from the 30th position in 2021 to the 60th in the 2022 global press freedom ranking by Reporters without Borders (RSF).

"On the global stage also, Ghana dropped from the 30th position in 2021 to 60th in 2022, the worst ranking in 20 years.

”The violations that have been recorded in Ghana over the past year is a cause for worry regarding the country’s performance in the next ranking.

"It is obvious that our press freedom environment is deteriorating and that the abuse of the two controversial laws has contributed massively to the deterioration.

“It is our view, therefore, that efforts to bring a positive change should begin with a reconsideration of those laws," he said.

Adequate resources

Consequently, the group called on the government to adequately resource the National Media Commission to effectively carry out its mandate of monitoring and regulating media content in a proactive manner.

"This, we believe, will discourage police involvement in the media regulatory space," Mr Dwumfour said on behalf of the coalition.

Writer's email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tag Cloud

| Ghana Politics Today  

News in Ghana | News Today | Ghana News

| Daily Graphic News |

Connect With Us : 0242202447 | 0551484843 | 0266361755 | 059 199 7513 |