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Recent events show criminal libel law has returned through a backdoor – Prof Azar

Kwaku Azar2.png Legal Luminary, Professor Stephen Kwaku Asare

Sat, 12 Feb 2022 Source:

Legal luminary and public-interest advocate, Prof Stephen Kwaku Asare popularly known as Kwaku Azar has said recent arrests and detention of people show the criminal libel law has returned through the back door.

His reaction follows the recent arrests, detention and trials of various journalists and a civil society person for the alleged publication of false news including ASEPA’s Mensah Thompson, Bobie Ansah of Accra FM and Oheneba of Power FM.

He said persons who feel defamed have a “cause of action in tort...and that suffices!”

“We have come too far to be taken back to the dark days,” He wrote on Facebook.

Prof Azar chided the courts for almost always taking the side of government in cases since Re Akoto while revealing the police have “allowed themselves to become instruments that the powerful can use to achieve their goals”.

He said the courts have proven incapable of being “the sentinel of free speech”.

Read his full post

It was in 1999 that Eben Quarcoo was given a 90-day sentence for publishing an article alleging that the then First Lady had smuggled gold out of the country.

In imposing the sentence, the learned judge said that “he had not imposed the maximum sentence of three years in order not to send chilling waves down the spines of media practitioners in the country.”

But that is exactly what the judge did with his 90-day sentence!

From Re Akoto, our Judges have sided with power and have proven woefully incapable of being the sentinel of free speech.

As for our police and prosecutors, the least said about their interest in protecting speech rights the better. They have allowed themselves to become instruments that the powerful can use to achieve their goals.

That is why GOGO was pleased when Kuffour repealed the criminal libel and sedition laws that were used to jail journalists and political opponents.

GOGO is very concerned, disturbed, and worried by recent events, including the detention of the ASEPA boss, Captain Smart, and Oheneba Boamah, that raise the question of whether the criminal libel laws have made a come back through the back door.

GOGO calls on the police, prosecutors and judges to halt the hostile attack on the media and the right to free expression.

People who feel defamed have a cause of action in tort. That suffices!

We have come too far to be taken back to the dark days.

#SALL is the cardinal sin of the 8th Parliament.

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