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Stop return to criminal libel regime – CSOs to Attorney General

Godfred Dame   New AG Attorney General, Godfred Dame

Mon, 14 Feb 2022 Source:

Some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country have called on the Attorney-General to ensure that the country does not return to a “criminal libel regime.”

This follows the recent arrests of journalists and the prosecution of persons for making or publishing certain statements.

According to the CSOs, the use of criminal law enforcement and prosecution to regulate and punish speech will take the country through another criminal libel regime.

A statement issued by the CSOs and co-signed by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), IMANI Africa, and the Africa Centre for International Law & Accountability (ACILA), said: “We are deeply troubled by the growing use of the prosecutorial and judicial power of the State to punish criminally speech that allegedly falsely injures or damages the reputation of other persons or of an institution of state.”

The statement continued that: “As a tool for regulating speech, the criminal law is fraught with the danger of politicisation and selective prosecution, as it leaves it to a party-aligned Attorney-General, an appointee who serves at the pleasure of the President, to determine which or whose allegedly false speech or publication to prosecute and which or whose speech to ignore.”

The CSO emphasised that: “A return to the use of criminal law enforcement and prosecution to regulate and punish speech would take us back to a bygone authoritarian era where journalists and public speakers were jailed for politically disagreeable libel.”

The CSOs, therefore, called for the discontinuation of the case against the Executive Director of the Alliance For Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA), Mensah Thompson.

“We implore the Attorney-General to discontinue the prosecution of Mr Thompson and take steps to stop all persons acting under his authority from re-introducing in another guise the long-discredited and abolished criminal libel regime.”

It also urged “media practitioners and users to tone down the inflammatory rhetoric that has contaminated our public square and airwaves, desist from knowingly or recklessly making or publishing false statements, and use, to the extent possible, the Right to Information Act and its processes to access information from public authorities.”

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