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I am appalled by criminalisation of speech and journalism under you – Mahama to Akufo-Addo

Mahama Akufo Addo+2020 President Akufo-Addo and former President John Mahama

Fri, 11 Feb 2022 Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Former President Mahama writes open letter to President Akufo-Addo

President Akufo-Addo accused of oppressing Ghanaians

Mahama recounts harassment of journalists under Akufo-Addo


Former President John Dramani Mahama has noted what he describes as the growing criminalisation of speech and journalism under the current government of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

According to Mr Mahama, he deems the situation under the current administration as appalling.

The former president made this known in an open letter addressed to his successor on Friday, February 11, 2022, following the arrest and detention of Kwabena Bobie Ansah, a political talk show host of Accra FM.

“I am appalled at the growing criminalisation of speech and journalism in Ghana, under your watch, in this 21st century,” Mr Mahama said.

Recalling the murder of investigative journalist Ahmed Suale and other incidents, Mr Mahama said president Akufo-Addo has refused to pay attention to instances of harassment against journalists.

Noting how President Akufo-Addo in his days as Attorney General fought to repeal the criminal libel law, former President Mahama said recent developments under the current government show a deliberate use of state power to suppress, criminalise free speech.

“There have also been several disturbing incidents of harassment of journalists in the line of duty; we have witnessed media establishments closed down on your instructions, despite many appeals to you.

“Now, in the space of less than two weeks, four people have suffered police action, criminalising their right to free speech. As Attorney General at the time, who led the repeal of the criminal libel law, in order that citizens could freely express their views, it is unconscionable to be suppressing the rights and criminalising the speech of citizens and journalists. It is even more worrying when the power of the state is used as a pliant tool in this intimidating endeavour,” Mr Mahama said.

Mr Mahama further recalled the arrest and detention of some journalists in the last few weeks describing it as an oppression of the Ghanaian people and criminalisation of free speech despite the civil nature of such cases.

“Radio and TV presenter Captain Smart was dragged from [the] court, and although he had been granted bail, sent into detention. Another radio presenter, Oheneba Boamah Bennie, has been incarcerated for statements he allegedly made. A civil society activist was arrested, detained, sent to court on criminal charges, granted bail and yet detained again for making a statement against you, President Akufo-Addo.

“As if to suggest insincerity behind the serious decriminalisation of speech that you led, another radio presenter, Bobie Ansah, has been arrested, detained and charged– criminalised for speaking and making allegations against your wife.

While bemoaning the current situation, former President Mahama said President Akuf-Addo by his actions is fashioning a dangerous blueprint adding that the president has discredited his much-touted accolade as a human rights lawyer and activist.

Read former President Maham’s open letter to President Akufo-Addo below:

Dear President Nana Akufo-Addo,

I am appalled at the growing criminalisation of speech and journalism in Ghana, under your watch, in this 21st century.

An investigative journalist was murdered, under very troubling circumstances. Yet, while the Ghanaian people and the international community have demanded justice, Government’s inability or unwillingness to act is obvious to all. The police have virtually shelved the investigations into this brutal murder.

There have also been several disturbing incidents of harassment of journalists in the line of duty; we have witnessed media establishments closed down on your instructions, despite many appeals to you.

Now, in a space of less than two weeks, four people have suffered police action, criminalizing their right to free speech. As Attorney General, at the time, who led the repeal of the criminal libel law, in order that citizens could freely express their views, it is unconscionable to be suppressing the rights and criminalising the speech of citizens and journalists. It is even more worrying when the power of the state is used as a pliant tool in this intimidating endeavour.

Radio and TV presenter Captain Smart was dragged from court, and although he had been granted bail, sent into detention. Another radio presenter, Oheneba Boamah Bennie has been incarcerated for statements he allegedly made. A civil society activist was arrested, detained, sent to court on criminal charges, granted bail and yet detained again for making a statement against you, President Akufo-Addo.

As if to suggest insincerity behind the serious decriminalization of speech that you led, another radio presenter, Bobie Ansah, has been arrested, detained and charged– criminalized for speaking and making allegations against your wife.

Again, last week, security personnel linked to your party brutalized a radio presenter and producer in the city of Takoradi. Such lawless attacks have today become common occurrences in our country.

President Akufo-Addo, you cannot continue to oppress the people, criminalize speech when these matters are essentially civil in nature, if you feel offended by them.

It is even more sad that the Journalists Association and its senior members, many of our clergy and other moral leaders, scared because of the oppressive and dictatorial regime you are running, have remained quiet in the face of this disturbing development in our maturing democracy.

This is a dangerous blueprint you are fashioning for our dear nation and it must not be encouraged. Your actions as President have totally discredited your self-acquired accolade as a human rights lawyer and activist. Ghana has long emerged from the unfortunate past where journalists were cowed by incarceration and brutalization.

I fear that if you do not take immediate action to arrest this unfortunate trend, when you exit the high office of President in January 2025, freedom of speech and a free media will certainly not be counted as part of the legacy you leave behind.

Your brother,

John Dramani Mahama.

Source: www.ghanaweb.com
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