Press freedom dented under Akufo-Addo – Mahama

Former President John Mahama

Former President John Mahama has condemned President Nana Akufo-Addo over the recent attacks on journalists and media organisations, which, he said, has resulted in a dip in Ghana’s freedom of speech global ranking.

“The culture of silence that is fast-enveloping our country attests to a growing intolerance for dissent and critical opinion. It stands in stark contrast to the practice of freedom and justice that Professor Mills sought to consolidate under his leadership, and which I so effortlessly exemplified after taking over from him,” Mr Mahama said in a speech read on his behalf by the Chairman of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, at a wreath-laying ceremony on Tuesday, 24 July 2019, to commemorate the passing of the late President John Evans Atta Mills some seven years ago.

On the back on brutalities and other abuses meted out to media practitioners, Mr Mahama said “Ghana’s hard-won global reputation for media freedom has been badly dented under President Nana Akufo-Addo. We have seen it tarnished by denunciations of the press, threats and instigations against journalists, selective and forcible shutdowns of FM stations perceived to be critical of the government, among others”.

Mr Mahama said: “At this time in our nation’s history, the qualities of President Mills’ leadership and the tenets of his personal morality take on a new lustre”.

Two radio stations affiliated to the opposition NDC – Radio Gold and Radio XYZ – were taken off the air a few months ago with the explanation that they failed to renew their authorisation licences.

Several journalists have been assaulted in the past few months, including three reporters of the state-owned Ghanaian Times newspaper. The attacks on the media got to a head with the murder of Tiger Eye PI’s investigative journalist Ahmed Hussein-Suale, which sparked worldwide condemnation. The murder case is still under investigation by the police.

Haji Fati, a sympathiser of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), is also on record to have assaulted a journalist, Ohemaa Sakyiwaa, who works with Accra-based Adom FM, at the NPP’s headquarters in Accra in May last year when the reporter tried to take a photo of her in connection with a story that involved the NPP activist.

Even though there have been brutalities against journalists in the recent past, Mr Mahama’s tenure as president was not without such incidents.

Stan Dogbe, who served as a presidential staffer under Mr Mahama was reported to have destroyed a voice recorder belonging to a reporter at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). The journalist, Yahaya Kwamoah of GBC Radio, had his recording device smashed on Thursday, 20 August 2015, when he went to the 37 Military Hospital to cover a story about the hospitalisation of presidential correspondents after an accident which killed Ghanaian Times reporter, Samuel Nuamah. The recorder of the journalist was, however, replaced.

Mr Mahama also apologised to Accra-based Joy FM reporter Kwesi Parker Wilson in 2018 after his security detail punched him in the face.

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