• Mon. Aug 15th, 2022

Police have no business regulating what false news is – Prof Karikari

Two sections, the media and politicians, are reckless in their public speech. Prof. Kwame Karikari, the former Director-General of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, believes this.

In an interview with Citi TV in Accra, he said that, whatever the case, it was troubling that the Ghana Police Service had lately enacted a legislation on false news to justify the imprisonment of journalists.

While criticising the reckless application of freedom of expression in the media realm, the former Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa, MFWA, emphasized that the police were not the correct institution to ‘regulate’ speech.

“We are aware of them, and we do not condone them, but this law has been in place for a long time; why is it now that the police are enforcing it and detaining journalists on a regular basis?” Examples abound of the kinds of acts or expressions on which the police are basing the law to arrest these people.

“When the police are regulating statements, they have a tendency to be arbitrary,” he explained, “because in the situations we’re talking about, you’ll note that these expressions, based on which the people were detained, are all directed at the Executive or government.”

“However, is the police telling us that the media owned by politicians who support the government make no reckless statements about those who disagree with them, and so on?” To put it another way, the police are not the best tool for defining what is fake news when they use such a statute.

“Police intervention in concerns of free expression is virtually always arbitrary and discriminatory.” “They are likely to do so only when it is in the advantage and favor of the prevailing government in our region of the world,” he inquired further.

A number of government critics, including journalists and activists, have recently encountered difficulties with the law. For contempt of court, one journalist was condemned to prison.

Another has been charged with fake news publication, while an activist has been charged with the same offense, and the convener of #FixTheCountry is facing felony treason accusations for threatening to stage a coup.

The spate of arrests and prosecutions has sparked worries about the government’s use of criminal processes to pursue opponents in cases where certain lawmakers, civil society groups, and social observers argue that civil processes should suffice.

1 – Godsbrain Blessing Smart, the host of Onua TV’s Maakye program, In December 2021 was detained for calling for a revolution in the country while criticizing the country’s high rate of corruption and decadence in administration.

2 – Oheneba Boamah Bennie, a Radio XYZ host, was sentenced to two weeks in prison for contempt last week for statements he allegedly made against Supreme Court judges after the 2020 elections.

3 – A Circuit Court in Accra charged Mensah Thompson, the Executive Director of ASEPA, a think tank, with publishing false news, and he was subsequently admitted to bail of GHC50,000 with two sureties.

4 – Kwabena Bobie Ansah of Accra FM was arrested on Thursday, February 10 for making untrue allegations against the First Lady, Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, and the wife of the Vice President, Samira Bawumia.

5 – Police confirmed the arrest of Oliver Barker-Vormawor, an activist and convener with the #FixTheCountry movement, for threatening a coup in a Facebook post.

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