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01.07.2019 Article

Sammy Darko writes: Rising reports of media intimidation dangerous

By Sammy Darko
Sammy Darko writes: Rising reports of media intimidation dangerous

The Journalists with ModernGhana say they were tortured. I have no independent verification of their claim but the repetition of torture by multiple sources both open and confidential sources without any plausible explanation/denial from National Security makes the situation even worrying.

The ModernGhana Journalists claim is the latest in a series of incidents that point to actions that clearly can be classified as “intimidating for media practice” in the country.

From Anas' #Number12 to the killing of Ahmed Suale to the aftermath of Manasseh's Militia story, the media space has seen some excess from security agencies [Police harassment especially] and agents of government that clearly point to the direction that all is not well with the government handling of media personnel deemed to have either published falsehood or committed a crime related to publication.

All this culminated in Ghana losing its enviable position as Africa's best-ranked country in the World Press Freedom Index having dropped four places from 23 to 27 in the 2019 edition. There appears to be a trend and the sooner the government deals with it, the better.

Interestingly, when colleagues go through such harassment, intimidation and oppression, the level of solidarity from the media itself has been low and people have sought to explain this by many theories. Some say the fear of being ostracized, losing support from government, or losing direct benefit or assistance from a politician or even getting fired for such open support.

Others outside the media have also explained with excuses such as threat and/or attack on press freedom is isolated, it is only happening to miscreants or unprofessional journalists, they are doing a bad job, are journalists above the law blablabla.

Be that as it may it is important to know that journalists under attack simply means media attack- period. The constitution of Ghana provides better avenue for seeking redress in response to media excess. For instance you can maintain a legal action in the form of defamation or seek for rejoinder or file a complaint at NMC. This is constitutional and responsible way.

Civility of democratic decency does not promote any other means including torturing and worse is the killing of pressmen like the case of Ahmed Hussein Suale. May his soul rest in peace. Such means is akin to mob (in) justice.

It is understandable that loosing the privilege of power, influence and an ending semblance of power is not a joke, more so if it is because of the work or publication of a journalists. However, maintenance of media and human rights is the surest way to build democracy.

This is the sort of solidarity, I guess we all need to lend to the media. The media's job has clearly been defined in article 162 (4) (5) of our constitution and this they shall without fear or favor. Emphasis mine.

“Editors and publishers of newspaper and other institutions of the mass media shall not be subject to control or interference by government, nor shall they be penalized or harassed for their editorial opinions and views, or the content of their publications”

All agencies of the mass media shall, at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this Constitution, and shall uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people of Ghana.”

In doing this, when they err, let's use and follow the law in seeking redress. Simple

The author Sammy Darko is a lawyer and former BBC Correspondent for Ghana.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."