Stop reintroduction of abolished criminal libel regime – CSOs

Three Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), IMANI Africa, and the Africa Centre for International Law & Accountability (ACILA), have  called for a stop to the “reintroduction of abolished criminal libel regime.”

They have, therefore, beseeched the Attorney-General to discontinue the prosecution of Mr Mensah Thompson and take steps to stop all persons acting under his authority from re-introducing another guise of the long-discredited and abolished criminal libel regime.

They have 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.”

The CSOs in a statement issued and copied to the Ghanaian Times in Accra last Saturday cited the prosecution of the Executive Director of the Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA), MrMensah Thompson, as one of those recent occurrences which they were concerned about.

The statement noted that Mr Thompson was prosecuted “on a charge of publishing false news on his Facebook page on or about January 8, 2022, alleging that certain relatives of the President travelled to the United Kingdom on the official presidential jet for pleasure and shopping during the Christmas season.”

“It is noteworthy that following discussions with the Ghana Armed Forces and in apparent anticipation of an official refutation of the allegation, Mr Thompson publicly retracted the allegation and apologised to the Ghana Armed Forces on or about January 9, 2022,” the statement added.

It said that the Executive Director of ASEPA in his original post called on the Ghana Armed Forces, among others, to explain the circumstances of the alleged use of the presidential jet by the President’s alleged family members.

“Mr Thompson was reportedly arrested and detained at the Teshie District Command of the Ghana Police Service on Wednesday, February 9, 2022 and subsequently charged with the publication of false news and offensive conduct conducive to the breach of peace,” it added.

Mr Thompson was said to have pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail by the Kaneshie District Court last Thursday.

For this reason, the CSOs stressed that they were troubled by the “growing use of the judicial power of the State to punish criminal speech that falsely injures or damages the reputation of other persons or of an institution of state.”

They said these recent happenings could be likened to the days when the criminal libel law was in use in the country.

Criminal libel is used to attack those who highlight incompetence or wrongdoing. It breaches the right to freedom of expression.

BY TIMES REPORTER

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