Akufo-Addo Returns Criminal Libel Law Through Backdoor
It has been established that the Prosecution of the Executive Director of ASEPA, Mensah Thompson, is to protect President Akufo-Addo and his family from attack by the youth of this country.
The Police Prosecutor handling the case, Inspector Ebenezer Tei Okuffo, yesterday told the Kaneshie District Court that a post by Mensah Thompson on a social media site, had the potential of inciting the youth of Ghana against the family of President Akufo-Addo.
This is the second time within one week that President Akufo-Addo’s name has been linked to two criminal cases which the Attorney-General is prosecuting.
Just last night, Kwabena Bobie Ansah of Accra FM, host of the Citizen Show was arrested and detained after his show at the Nima Police Station for allegedly saying something about the First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, five months ago.
Interestingly, the two individuals involved are held as aligned to the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
On Tuesday, an Accra High Court presided over by Justice Elfreda Dankyi, found Oheneba Boamah Bennie of Accra-based Power FM radio station, guilty of charges proffered against him and slapped him with a 14-day jail term.
The court also fined the broadcaster an amount of GHS 3000 over his claim of President Akufo-Addo, influencing the Supreme Court (SC) judges to decide any electoral petition in his favour, with Justice Elfreda Dankyi telling Mr Bennie “I have been magnanimous.”
What is striking is that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin North, Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, has also contempt of Court case hanging around his neck over an open threat on a judge, but it is yet to be called almost two and half years.
Social and civil rights activist, Prof. Kwaku Asare alias Kwaku Azar, fear the country is returning to the dark days of the criminal libel law interestingly under a man who prides himself as having led its repeal during Kufuor administration.
“GOGO is very concerned, disturbed, and worried by recent events, including the detention of the ASEPA boss, Captain Smart, and Oheneba Boamah, that raise the question of whether the criminal libel laws have made a comeback through the back door”.
Mr Thompson put up a Facebook post last year, alleging that the President’s relatives used the presidential jet on a shopping spree in the United Kingdom. He subsequently retracted the post and apologized for it.
Yesterday in court, he pleaded not guilty to two criminal charges of publication of false news and offensive conduct conducive to the breach of peace.
He has subsequently been admitted to a bail sum of GH¢50,000 with two sureties.
He is also to report to the investigating officer at the Teshie District Police Command at least twice a week.
Police Prosecutor, Inspector Ebenezer Tei Okuffo, told the Kaneshie District Court that “there are places we have to take the accused person to, to elicit some information” as part of the investigations; and prayed the court to remand Mr Thompson.
According to the Prosecutor, Mr Thompson, had been extended an invitation to the Police Station on January 14, to aid the police in the investigation, but he refused to honour the invitation and turned himself in only when he got wind of an arrest warrant secured against him.
The prosecution thus feared that Mr Thompson would not avail himself for investigation if granted bail.
Disagreeing with the facts as presented by the Prosecution, lawyer for Mensah Thompson, Victor Kojogah Adawudu, said the accused person did not refuse to honour the police invitation.
He told the court that Mr Thompson was undertaking an examination at the time of the invitation, so was unable to honour it.
He argued based on case law that it wasn’t the place of the accused person to aid investigations into the charges against him; and contended that Mr. Thompson’s only obligation was the assurances of his highest esteem to attend to the court whenever he’s called upon, even when on bail.
According to Mr. Adawudu, Mr Thompson “was misled by a source (in his Facebook post) but he did the honourable thing by retracting and apologizing the moment his attention was drawn to it”.
When quizzed by the Magistrate, His Worship, Oheneba Kuffuor, Mensah Thompson, told the court that he “did not intend to cause malice or breach the peace with his post but only sought accountability”.
His Worship, Oheneba Kuffuor, wondered why the accused person would run to social media with the post when he had officially written to the Civil Aviation Authority requesting information on the matter.
“It appears everyone is busy taking a part of the country off. What do you seek to gain with that?” he quizzed in astonishment.
In the belief of His Worship, Mr. Thompson’s Facebook was not derogatory, and wondered how it would have incited the youth against President Akufo-Addo’s family members.
The case has been adjourned to March 10, 2022.
In the case of the Accra-based Power FM, his lawyer, Victor Kojoga Adawudu, pleaded with Justice Elfreda Dankyi to be lenient with his client, but she insisted she had already been charitable in determining the sentence.
The A-G dragged Bennie to court for contempt of court
It was the case of the A-G that, after the declaration of President Akufo-Addo as the President-elect by the Electoral Commission (EC), Bennie allegedly published a video on his Facebook wall, claiming that President Akufo-Addo, had met with eight justices of the Supreme Court, led by the Chief Justice, and had influenced them.
He claimed the President used the supposed meeting to influence the justices of the apex court to rule in his favour in the event of any election petition challenging his re-election as declared by the EC.
In the said video, he allegedly said Ghanaians would not allow the justices of the Supreme Court to destroy the country and urged the military to stage a coup d’etat.
The A-G makes a case that through his publication, Bennie wants to tell the public that judges, including the justices of the apex court, decide cases not independently but by taking directives from the President.
Such an assertion, the A-G argued, if allowed to go unpunished, would amount to gross disrespect for the judiciary, which is a violation of the 1992 Constitution.
According to the A-G, Bennie knew that there was a possibility of a challenge to the presidential election at the Supreme Court and, therefore, by poisoning the minds of the public against the court, he wanted to cause disaffection for the court.
“That the respondent’s disrespect for the Judiciary and the publication of false news intended to bring the Judiciary into disrepute makes him liable to be committed to prison in order to vindicate the undoubted authority of the Judiciary enshrined in Article 125 of the 1992 Constitution,” the affidavit in support of the A-G’s case added.
Taking to his Facebook page on Wednesday, Prof. Asare wrote, “it was in 1999 that Eben Quarcoo was given a 90-day sentence for publishing an article alleging that the then First Lady (Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings) had smuggled gold out of the country”.
“In imposing the sentence, the learned judge said that “he had not imposed the maximum sentence of three years in order not to send chilling waves down the spines of media practitioners in the country.”
“But that is exactly what the judge did with his 90-day sentence!
“From Re Akoto, our Judges have sided with power and have proven woefully incapable of being the sentinel of free speech.
“As for our police and prosecutors, the least said about their interest in protecting speech rights the better.
“They have allowed themselves to become instruments that the powerful can use to achieve their goals.
That is why GOGO was pleased when Kuffour repealed the criminal libel and sedition laws that were used to jail journalists and political opponents.
“GOGO is very concerned, disturbed, and worried by recent events, including the detention of the ASEPA boss, Captain Smart, and Oheneba Boamah, which raises the question of whether the criminal libel laws have made a comeback through the back door.
“GOGO calls on the police, prosecutors, and judges to halt the hostile attack on the media and the right to free expression.
“People who feel defamed have a cause of action in tort. That suffices!
“We have come too far to be taken back to the dark days.