I intend to keep this letter as short as possible since it is my first letter to you as the president of this our beautiful country.
“Even as one of the public figures most vilified in sections of the Ghanaian media, and one who ironically was a principal actor in the repeal of these laws, I continue to insist that their repeal was necessary in the public interest in our emerging democracy.”
Mr. President these were your exact words when you spoke at the Conference on the Twin Themes of “African Constitutionalism: Present Challenges And Prospects For The Future” And “African Constitutionalism And The Media”, Co-Organised by the Institute Of Comparative And International Law And The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, At The University Of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, on 4th August, 2011.
At that conference you reminded the whole world of your absolute commitment to foster press freedom and promote free speech. You gave a lengthy ‘sermon’ of the chequred history our media landscape has been through and your burning desire to protect media freedom. You did not mince words in outlining the litany of abuses meted out to media practitioners and media actors by the government at the time just for expressing their views.
Someway, somehow, the very numerous ills you spent your entire political life preaching against are being perpetuated with impunity under your watch.
On Thursday 27th June, a group of gun wielding men believed to be National Security operatives stormed the office of news organisation modernghana.com and arrested its deputy editor Emmanuel Ajarfor Abugri, and a reporter Emmanuel Yeboah Britwum, over a publication about the National Security Minister, Albert Kan Dapaah, and the ruling party’s Member of Parliament for Effutu constituency, Alexander Afenyo-Markin.
It is alleged that the two were subjected to various forms of torture including electric shock.
The current attack on the modernghana premises and journalists adds up to the barrage of unprovoked attacks on journalists by either people claiming to be National Security Officers or the Ghana Police Service. The crimes of these media personnel have often been for just expressing their views on issues of national concern or reporting stories.
Mr. President, in your fight for media freedom, you have even advocated for the repeal of the “law on false news”. The handling of the infamous ‘Amina Yutong bus’ story which turned out to be nothing but a hoax and the gentleman who alleged on Top Fm that former President Rawlings set fire onto his own house by the previous government became classical examples for you in your University of Pretoria speech as to why the laws on false news should be looked at again.
“The problem with our current false news law is that it is more directed at mere expression and the state of mind, namely fear and alarm, which in the best of worlds is difficult to determine. As the offence of publishing false news, therefore, currently stands, it is, in my view, inconsistent with the constitutional provisions on free expression, being overly broad and accordingly not proportionate to the legitimate public interest sought to be protected. The offence, therefore, requires substantial review to ensure that it is narrowly tailored to meet the protection of the legitimate public interest sought to be protected.” You said.
Having read the fantastic views you expressed in that lecture and listen to you on a number of occasions espousing the need to protect freedom of the press at all cost no matter how critical or robust, I find it extremely ridiculous that some actors within your government will make a section of media practitioners and media actors feel unsafe under your watch.
This is definitely not the Nana Akufo-Addo we know and it cannot represent your beliefs, views and stand as far as media freedom is concerned.
Mr. President, the alleged threat on Manasseh Azure Awuni’s life leading to a temporal exile, the killing of Ahmed Suale, the assault on Latif Iddrisu, David Andoh, Christopher Kevin Asima, a presenter of A1 Radio in Bolgatanga, the three Ghanaian Times Journalists etc by policemen cannot be allowed to thrive whiles our president keep mute.
Our elders say “the old man who stays in the house and allow the children to eat python is counted among eaters of python”.
Mr. President, your loud silence in the face of these unwarranted attacks on Press Freedom is not encouraging and gives the indication that; you probably are urging your boys on.
Whether it is a concoction, the imagination of some people, real or over hyped, the unbridled truth is that some media practitioners do not feel safe under your watch.
Mr. President, the cynical use of force to throttle democratic and free expression under your watch demonstrate authoritarian, anti-democratic and repressive nature of assigns within your government against free speech and freedom of the press and taints your hard earn reputation as promoter of rule of law and protector of freedom of the press.
But Mr. President, one thing that is clear is that just like you did in some few years back, we are all “confident that the people of Ghana will defend the right to free expression to the very end because of their determination to build a free, open society with accountable governance.”
The earlier you call your ‘boys’ to order and protect free speech like you have always done which made you lead the charge for the repeal of the criminal libel law, the better for our country.
I do not want to believe that the taste of power has corrupted that bold stand.
The media want to feel safe now.