Relative lawlessness in constructive criticism: Is Mahama beyond reproach?

Mahama  Govt Former president John Dramani Mahama

Wed, 13 Nov 2019 Source: Kwaku Badu

I was extremely flabbergasted to see the teeming supporters of former President Mahama unblushingly besieging the studios of the Multimedia to vent their spleen on the journalist, whose only crime was to criticise the NDC 2020 flagbearer.

However harsh the criticisms the journalist was within her democratic right to upbraid the weeding’ former President Mahama.

Let us, therefore, remind the brassbound NDC supporters that the right to freedom of opinion and expression stretches to queer and unpopular ideas and statements which “shock, offend or disturb.”

In fact, the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the appropriate permitted abridgements are detailed in international law -Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It must, however, be emphasised that free speech is an inalienable right to seek, receive and convey information and ideas of all kinds, and, by any means which may be deemed appropriate.

In other words, the right to freedom of expression denotes the ideas of all kinds, including those that may be deemed offensive.

Let us also remind the Mahama diehard supporters that if freedom of opinion and expression was to become subject to ordinary legislature, executive or judicial control, it would be no different from any other statutory right which the authorities are free to confer and withdraw at their pleasure.

Thus, the restriction of freedom of opinion and expression becomes a crucial and delicate question.

Suffice it to stress that any restrictions cannot be based on ideological perceptions of legislature, executive or judicial, but must be predicated on objectively founded and comprehended criteria.

Interestingly, during the Mahama administration, the World Freedom report by Freedom House indicated that government agencies in Ghana restricted press freedom through harassment and arrests of journalists, especially those who reported on politically sensitive issues (Freedom House, 2016).

The 2016 report however stressed that in September 2015, journalists and media organizations condemned the then presidential staffer, Stan Dogbe, who allegedly attacked Ghana Broadcasting Corporation journalist Yahayah Kwamoah and damaged his recording device.

The report stated that media groups criticized police for failing to protect journalists from TV-Africa who were attacked while covering demonstrations in the slum known as Sodom and Gomorrah in Accra (Freedom House 2016).

In a related incident, in January 2014, police in the Upper West Region arrested the host of the radio talk program Sungmaale FM, along with two panellists, for on-air comments about police strategies toward criminal activity. The detainees were released the same day, and the acting commissioner of police of the Upper Western Region apologized for the officers’ unlawful conduct”.

In March 2013, two photojournalists from state-owned newspapers were brutally beaten by security officials while they were taking photos of Mahama during Ghana’s Independence Day celebrations.

The Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) and the Media Foundation for West Africa condemned the attack and demanded an immediate probe.

The Ghana Armed Forces conducted an investigation of the incident and exonerated the military personnel involved of any misconduct.

However, the public uproar over the exoneration led the country’s chief of defence staff to apologize to the photojournalists and said they would be compensated.

In January 2012, several agents of the Bureau of National Investigations attacked a reporter for the private Daily Guide when she attempted to photograph the deputy superintendent of police, who was being investigated for alleged offences.

In June 2012, four police officers assaulted a reporter for the state-owned Daily Graphic, who was covering a drug raid conducted by the police.

The NDC government indicated that it was investigating both cases, but no charges were brought against either.

In March 2011, teachers’ union members who were conducting a peaceful march against a new wage policy were subjected to beatings, tear gas, and arrest by police in Accra.

In February 2010, NPP activist Nana Darkwa Baafi was detained on charges of “publishing false news with intent to cause fear or harm to the public or to disturb the public peace.

His arrest prompted the NPP to boycott parliamentary proceedings for two days.

Baafi had alleged during a radio interview that former president John Rawlings had set fire to his own government-sponsored residence in an effort to acquire new housing.

During Barfi’s hearing in March, NPP and NDC supporters clashed at the Accra courthouse, leaving two injured. The case was ultimately dropped in October.

In July 2010, criminal charges were brought against the acting news editor of Joy FM, Ato Kwamena Dadzie, for his coverage of the scandal surrounding the STX Korea housing deal.

In fact, the list is not exhaustive, however, time and space won’t allow me to enumerate all in this article.

Given that the successive NDC governments have persistently violated the civil liberties and personal integrity rights of Ghanaians, it is dishonest and hypocritical for the party loyalists to seek to take a high moral ground.

K. Badu, UK.


Columnist: Kwaku Badu
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