The Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG) has called on President Akufo-Addo to halt the growing incidents of threats and attacks on journalists and the media in the country.
The association said such threats stand to threaten the democratic gains made in Ghana.
The association’s call was premised on the recent arrest and detention of two journalists working with web portal ModernGhana.com, Emmanuel Ajarfor Abugri, Deputy Editor and Emmanuel Yeboah Britwum, a reporter.
“We call on the President to take measures to discourage the rising threats to Journalists and media practice in Ghana and urge the public to guard against any act that is inimical to the freedom of speech prescribed and guaranteed in the 1992 constitution. Such tendencies only erode the huge gains that Ghana has made in the area of Freedom and Independence of the media”, the association noted.
The two journalists were arrested on Thursday after some armed persons who introduced themselves as National Security operatives raided the website’s office in Accra.
Some laptops were seized in the process.
Later reports said that the two persons were being held for allegedly hacking the servers of competitor websites.
But PRINPAG says it is shocked by the incident and sees it as an attack on media practice and media freedom in Ghana especially on the back of other similar incidents including the killing of Ahmed Husein Suale in January 2019.
The association in its statement said;
The Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana has learnt with shock and dismay the arrest of Emmanuel Ajarfor Abugri, Deputy Editor and another journalist from the offices of online news portal, ‘ModernGhana’ at about 3:00pm on Thursday June 27, 2019.
According to information gathered from media sources, operatives from the National Security stormed the offices of Modern Ghana in mufti and asked that one of its editors, whose name is given as Adjafour, should step out of the office building for a friendly chat.
After he obliged, he realized that the men who neither had badges nor any warrant whatsoever, intend to arrest him.
Adjafour as a matter of precaution decided to retreat to the office door and this led to a scuffle. The National security operatives are alleged to have roughly bundled him into a waiting vehicle.
Immediately after the alleged assault on Mr. Adjafour, a heavily armed Police personnel who had been hiding in plain sight moved into action. They invaded the news media’s office building and carried away computers.
There had been claims that the arrests were made because the website had published a story on the National Security Minister, Albert Kan Dapaah but according to PRINPAG, the minister told the association that the journalists had been under national security radar for a while.
PRINPAG said although it, does not support any wrongdoing in the media practice, it believes that institutions of state must recognize the critical role the media and its practitioners play in the country’s democracy.
“Any direct or indirect attempt to intimidate the media in the course of their work is an indictment on the efforts that the country is thriving very hard to make in its democratic dispensation,” it noted.
National security must respect constitution
Although the two journalists were released barely 48 hours after their arrest, PRINPAG expressed regret that their detention was not in accordance with due process.
The Association, therefore, urged National security to ensure that its operatives to treat media practitioners and other Ghanaians with dignity
PRINPAG is concerned that National Security unduly kept the journalists in detention for such a long time without following due process…. [The National Security must] caution its operatives to treat media practitioners and all other Ghanaians with dignity and within the confines of civility and where they ought to exercise discretion exercise it in a fair, reasonable and just manner.
[The National Security must] Take steps to update the public on all other investigations and actions being taken by state security apparatus in relation to assault and unfair harassment of media practitioners including the status of investigations into the murder of investigative journalist, Ahmed Hussain Suale.