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Stop apparent re-introduction of criminal libel regime – CSOs to gov’t


Three Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are demanding an immediate stop to what they say is the “apparent resurrection” of the long abolished criminal libel law in the country.

The groups – Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), IMANI Africa and the Africa Center for International Law & Accountability (ACILA) say their concerns follow the recent series of arrests and prosecution of individuals whose statements have been captured in sections of the media and are said to pose some security threat.

In particular, they mentioned the case of the Executive Director of the Alliance For Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA), Mr. Mensah Thompson, who is currently facing criminal charges over the publication of false news about the family of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

In a joint press statement, the organisations were not happy with the manner some persons are being prosecuted, saying it has heightened fears over the possible return of the age-old criminal libel law in the country.

“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 read in parts.

“Instructively, during the heyday of the criminal libel law in the 1990s, the criminal law was used in precisely the way it is now being used: to prosecute and punish journalists and public speakers for allegedly false or defamatory statements against certain family members or associates of the President”, the CSOs further added.

The CSOs, therefore, asked for the use of the various legal channels rather than the wanton abuse of power against the rights of the ordinary Ghanaian.

“Our legal system provides non-criminal or civil avenues for dealing with uses of free speech that injure or infringe on the rights of others. The law provides offending parties with the prospect of avoiding even civil liability by retracting the offending publication and rendering an appropriate apology to the injured or offended party. 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 other public speakers were jailed for politically disagreeable libel.”

Discontinue case against Mensah Thompson

CDD-Ghana, IMANI Africa and ACILA also asked the Attorney General not to continue the criminal prosecution against Mr. 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”.

But the CSOs were quick in cautioning the media, “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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