CSOs express concern over power of prosecutors to punish free speech
Some civil society organizations (CSOs) have expressed concern over the “increasing use of the prosecutorial and judicial power of the state” to punish speech that hurts or damages the reputation of others and state institutions.
“We note with deep concern the apparent resurrection of the discredited criminal libel regime through a series of recent arrests and prosecutions of individuals for statements made or published in the media,” they said.
CSOs said the country’s legal system provides non-criminal or civil avenues to address uses of free speech that hurt or infringe the rights of others.
In a statement issued jointly by the Center for Democratic Development-Ghana (CDD-Ghana), IMANI Africa and the African Center for International Law and Accountability (ACILA), declared the abolition of criminal defamation following the Rawlings regime in 2001, a move championed by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo during his tenure as a private lawyer, representing journalists and the media.
This follows the prosecution of Mensah Thompson, executive director of the Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA), for publishing false news and offensive conduct conducive to breaking the peace.
He made a post on his Facebook page on January 8, 2022, alleging that some of the president’s relatives traveled to the UK on the official presidential jet for fun and shopping over the Christmas period.
Mr Thompson publicly retracted the allegation and apologized to the Ghana Armed Forces on January 9, 2022, following his initial message which called on the Ghana Armed Forces among others to explain the circumstances of the use of the presidential plane by the presumed members of the president. family.
He was arrested and detained at the Teshie District Command of the Ghana Police Service on February 9, 2022 and on February 10, 2022 he pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on bail by the Kaneshie District Court.
The statement states that as Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Nana Akufo-Addo left aggrieved parties free to pursue alternatives and civil remedies to deal with false and defamatory publications and the law offered offending parties the possibility of avoiding civil liability by withdrawing. publication and presentation of appropriate apologies to the aggrieved or offended party.
The statement called on the Attorney General to end the prosecution of Mr. Thompson and take steps to prevent all persons acting under his authority from reintroducing the long discredited and abolished criminal defamation regime in another form and urged professionals and media users to moderate inflammatory rhetoric that had contaminated public space and the airwaves.
“Refrain from knowingly or recklessly making or publishing false statements and use, where possible, the Right to Information Act and its processes to access information from public authorities,” the statement said.