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Ghanaian journalists fear as silencing culture rears its head

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Ghana was recognized as being among the best 50 peace-keeping contributors by the United Nations, while its democratic dispensation has been hailed by the international community.

When it comes to pluralistic media, Ghana stands tall among other African countries as media practitioners enjoy press freedom and the Criminal Libel Law had been expunged from the Constitution of Ghana in 2001.

Before then, the military governments were using the libel law to incarcerate erring journalists, which resulted in the “culture of silence” stifling the press in the process.

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However, journalists are currently grappling with ‘fear’ as a result of continuous attacks on them by bandits, security agencies and politicians.

Recently, the government announced its intention to protect journalists and media practitioners, following the murder of the investigative journalist, Ahmed Hussein Suale, in 2018.

He was murdered in cold blood after he had played a key role in exposing the rot in the Ghana Football Association.

The Tiger Eye Pl investigator’s work led to the dismissal of Kwesi Nyantakyi, the former President of the GFA and Executive Member of the world football governing body, FIFA, from all football activities.

As if that was not enough, three journalists working with state-owned Ghanaian Times Newspaper, including a pregnant woman, were assaulted for accosting a police officer for breaking traffic law for driving through the red light.

Civil society organizations and individuals condemned the act and called for the punishment of the peace officers, but that was the end of the story.

There was a publication claiming that two on-line journalists working with ModernGhana were arrested by the operatives of the National Security for allegedly plotting a cyber-attack against the country, an allegation the two has denied.

Emmanuel Ajarfor, editor, and a reporter were arrested by National Security operatives on Thursday, 27 June 2019.

They were alleged to be involved in the plotting of a cyber-attacks on some corporate and media organizations in the country.

While in custody, Ajafour claimed the issue of cyber-attack was not raised, rather, they were questioned about two articles published on the website.

One of the articles related to a protracted conflict at the University of Education, Winneba.

The website published a story on National Security Minister, Albert Kan Dapaah, and the ruling New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) Member of Parliament for Effutu constituency, Alexander Afenyo-Markin. But the operatives arrested them and tortured them, according to the journalists who interviewed them.

The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has condemned the alleged torture of ModernGhana journalists by the operatives of the National Security Council, describing the alleged torment as “backward and barbaric’.

The GJA wants President Akufo-Addo to take interest in the matter and ensure it is investigated. Ajafor claims he has been subjected to electric shock and other forms of torture by the security operatives.

“They beat me a lot,” he claimed in an interview with Joy News’ Roland Walker.

However, the National Security has denied the allegations of torture.

“We consider it to be a clear and deliberate attempt by the suspect to discredit the investigations and the case against him… Torture and manhandling of suspects are not part and parcel of the culture and architecture of the secretariat under the administration of President Akufo-Addo,” the Council said in a statement.

The GJA is sceptical about the Council’s denial.

At a press conference on Wednesday, 3 July 2019, the Association’s President, Roland Affail Monney, wants the issue independently investigated.

“The GJA has a constitution, ethical, legal, moral and responsibility to rally to the defence of all journalists in their line of duty and we shall not flinch from doing so under any circumstance,” Monney added.

He said the association is worried over the frequent attacks on journalists in recent times because, such assaults “corrodes our international image and dim the beacon of our democracy”.

Monney has, therefore, called on President Akufo-Addo to “please work and be seen to be working on restoring confidence that the media environment is safe and still a reference point for the rest in the world.”

He advised journalists to be ethically responsible and security conscious at all times in order not to “fall prey to the enemies of press freedom”.

Meanwhile, some civil society organisations like One Ghana Movement, Media Foundation for West Africa and the opposition National Democratic Congress have called for the removal of the Minister of National Security, Albert Kan Daapah from office.

The Ghanaian government has to take steps urgently to rescue to hard earned press freedom in Ghana by ensuring that journalists are adequately protected from incessant harassment and unwarranted death.

Press freedom is vital in a democracy and every effort should be made to ensure that the old order, which allowed the culture of silence by the media during the military regime does not manifest again in Ghana.

– APA  

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