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27.06.2008 Politics

Akoto Ampaw Slams Defamation Bill

By Daily Graphic
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A legal practitioner, Mr Akoto Ampaw, has described the Defamation Bill as a disguised re-introduction of the repealed Criminal Libel Law which frowned on freedom of expression and independence of the media.

He noted that several portions of the new bill amounted to smuggling the ancient criminal law into the country's legal system.

Mr Ampaw said this at a forum on “Legal Perspective of the Freedom and Independence of the Media” organised by the National Media Commission/Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Accra.

It was on the theme, “The State of Freedom and Independence of the Media: 2007”.

Mr Ampaw said Section 185 of the repealed libel law was now being incorporated into the Defamation Bill to make it actionable, stressing that that could not even be entertained under English Common Law.

“So there are so many things in the bill that are many steps backward. We need to collectively raise our voices to prevent this,” he said.

He said he was studying the bill and would soon make a formal statement on his observations.

He stressed the need for broadcasting legislation that would deal with the present broadcasting atmosphere.

A human rights activist, Nana Oye Lithur, said there had not been any clear direction on how to deal with human rights issues and called on the NMC to be clear on what was public interest and what was not.

The Managing Editor of the Insight newspaper, Mr Kwesi Pratt Jnr, disputed the assertion that the freedom and independence of the media began from the New Patriotic Party (NPP) regime, adding that the Newspaper Law was repealed in 1979, while the newspaper law, the habeas corpus law, among others, were re-introduced in 1990.

He said the struggle for the freedom and independence of the media could not end because there had been challenges with every stage of the country's development.

Mr Pratt recounted some major violations on the rights of media practitioners by the government or its agents.

He commended the NMC for using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to resolve issues in the media.

The Deputy Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr Frank Agyekum, called for collective efforts on the part of the media and the government to protect press freedom in the country, adding that “if we fail, we will plunge the country into the dark days”.

He called on journalists to cross-check their facts before they published their stories, stressing the need for them to guard their profession.

Story by Timothy Gobah

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