Three Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have called for an immediate end to what they have described as the “apparent resurrection” of the long abolished criminal libel law in the country.
The groups – Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), IMANI Africa and the Africa Center for International Law & Accountability (ACILA) made the call in reaction to the recent series of arrests and prosecution of individuals whose statements have been captured in sections of the media.
The groups referenced the arrest and detention of Executive Director of the Alliance For Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA), Mr. Mensah Thompson.
He was arrested, detained and later arraigned in court and subsequently granted bail over alleged publication of fake news.
He is curse toy facing currently facing criminal charges over the publication of false news about the family of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
The three CSOs in their joint statement said
“We are deeply troubled by the growing use of the prosecutorial and judicial power of the State to punish criminally speech that allegedly falsely injures or damages the reputation of other persons or of an institution of state”, the statement read in parts.
“Instructively, during the heyday of the criminal libel law in the 1990s, the criminal law was used in precisely the way it is now being used: to prosecute and punish journalists and public speakers for allegedly false or defamatory statements against certain family members or associates of the President”, the CSOs further added.
“Our legal system provides non-criminal or civil avenues for dealing with uses of free speech that injure or infringe on the rights of others. The law provides offending parties with the prospect of avoiding even civil liability by retracting the offending publication and rendering an appropriate apology to the injured or offended party. A return to the use of criminal law enforcement and prosecution to regulate and punish speech would take us back to a bygone authoritarian era where journalists and other public speakers were jailed for politically disagreeable libel.”