Comments detrimental to nat’l cohesion shouldn’t be encouraged – Pwavra Teriwayah

A Private Legal Practitioner, Pwavra Teriwajah, has stated that comments that are detrimental to national cohesion of society should not be encouraged.

According to him, “freedom of speech as captured under Article 21 of the 1992 Constitution, provides some form of limitation, thus we should not take it as a virtue people are allowed to just communicate anyhow to endanger our collective peace, unity, security and harmony”.

Mr Teriwayah insisted that there must be some line drawn somewhere because it was about speech- rights should have some limits but should not be limitless to the detriment of society and when it gets to a level, limits must be drawn.

On February 8, 2022, a presenter with Power FM, Oheneba Bennie, was handed a 14- day jail term for threatening and insulting President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, also, Accra FM’s Bobie Ansah, who accused the First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo of theft, was picked up by persons purported to be National Security Operatives and has been charged with the publication of false news and offensive conduct.

Mr Teriwayah reiterated that the rights enjoyed by the citizenry are not without limits and cited section 207 and 208 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) that regulated free speech and the repealed criminal libel law.

Section 207 of the Act states that: “Any person who in any public place or at any public meeting uses threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, or whereby a breach of the peace is likely occasioned, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour”.

While Section 208 notes that: “Any person who publishes or reproduces any statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace, knowing or having reason to believe that the stated rumour or report, is false is guilty of a misdemeanour.

“It is no defence to a charge under subsection (1) that the person charged did not know or did not have reason to believe that the statement, rumour or report, was false, unless he proves that, prior to publishing he took reasonable measures to verify the accuracy of the statement, rumour or report.”

MrTeriwajah maintained that the repealed law and the sections of the Criminal Offenses Act in question are not the same and explained that “in the case of the criminal libel law, it was seeking to protect public office holders, usually it will be politicians and there is hue and cry.

He noted that he would not compare such provision to the one under discussion now, that is, 207, 208 and section 76 since they were not on the same pedestal however, the latter may be abused, and “if it is abused, we can talk about that because something maybe for a good purpose and may be abused”. –

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