The Norbert Zongo Cell for Investigative Journalism in West Africa (CENOZO) has called on President Nana Akufo-Addo to uphold the fundamental rights of citizens’ and also take serious steps to end acts of impunity against journalists in Ghana.
The group also appealed to the Chief Justice of Ghana, Kwasi Anin-Yeboah to investigate Justice Eric Baah of the High Court Accra for his conduct while handling a defamation case brought against Kennedy Agyapong, a Member of Parliament from Assin Central.
CENOZO, a sub-regional network of investigative journalists made these appeals in a statement which was made available to GuardPost on Monday.
Renowned undercover Journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas was said to have dragged Mr. Agyapong before Justice Baah on alleged defamation in suit No.GT/892/2018.
While ruling, the judge dismissed the case with a cost against Mr. Anas and also came down hard on the renowned journalist, calling him a terrorist and blackmailer.
CENOZO, however, slammed the ruling, adding that Justice Baah was not only targeting Mr. Anas but also undermined the foundation, principles, and practice of investigative journalism in Ghana and Africa.
While respecting the right of the courts to carry out their constitutional duties, CENOZO said the procedure adopted by Justice Baah in reaching his decision on Mr. Anas’ case was iniquitous, largely self-serving and steeped in apparent vengeance.
“Anas Aremeyaw Anas is a member of our organisation who is well-known for conducting daring investigations that have exposed the underbelly of corruption and malfeasance in Ghana and globally, thereby attracting legions of enemies and detractors, some of whom have been caught with their hands in the public pie and thoroughly disgraced, with many sentenced to prison.
“We are aware that Hon. Agyapong, a sitting parliamentarian representing Assin Central and a Ghanaian government appointee, is among those who have criticised Mr. Anas and his Tiger Eye team for the multiple exposés they have conducted over the years.
“It is worth noting that Hon. Agyapong has a history of human rights violations and has incited violence against journalists and activists, including Luv FM journalist Erastus Donkor during a live interview on Net 2 TV and Ahmed Hussein-Suale, Anas’ team member who helped make a documentary about Ghanaian football corruption,” the statement by CENOZO read.
The group said that Mr. Hussein-Suale, one of Mr. Anas’ team members, was murdered a few weeks after the parliamentarian called on the public to attack him.
Continuing, CENOZO wrote, “We find it very strange that Justice Eric Baah chose to attack Mr. Anas’ character and reputation rather than focusing on the merits or demerits of the defamation case that was brought before the court, branding him a “corrupt blackmailer, terrorist, extortionist, and evil,” without a shred of evidence.
“We believe it is extremely unprofessional and ungodly for the judge to have descended so low and made judicial pronouncements bordering on criminality on a journalist who has never been charged with any of the offences in question.
“We also don’t understand why Justice Baah would find a journalist’s work and person so repulsive that he would address him in such abusive and slanderous terms.”
The group drew the attention of the judge to the United States Supreme Court ruling in the case of The New York Times v. Sullivan, where the court held that journalists cannot be held liable even when they print false statements, as long as they did not act with “actual malice.”
Justice Baah was referred to another landmark ruling of the United States Supreme Court in a case of New York Times v. United States, where the court held that the government cannot prohibit the publication of classified data unless it can demonstrate that the publication or distribution of such data would cause a clear and present danger to national security.
Besides the above, CENOZO argued that Ghana has earned global respect for implementing the UN’s Plan of Action on Journalist Safety and Impunity, which enabled it to host the UNESCO’s 2018 World Press Freedom Day Celebration.
It also maintained that the country in 2019 inaugurated a Committee to implement the mechanism on Journalist Safety, but noted that those gains could be lost due to the actions of state actors such as Justice Baah and MP Agyapong.
“We know that Anas Aaremeyaw Anas and his Tiger Eye team have not broken any known laws in Ghana or elsewhere in the course of their investigative reporting and should be protected from any form of attack by state and non-state actors.
“We, therefore, invite the Ghana Journalists Association, as well as journalism associations throughout Africa and the world, to condemn Justice Eric Baah’s actions, which have severely harmed Ghana’s free press record and demonstrated the difficult terrain in which African journalists, particularly investigative journalists, operate.
“We also request the Chief Justice of Ghana and the Ghana Legal Council (GLC) which have consistently demonstrated a high level of integrity, transparency and fairness in the dispensation of justice to investigate the conduct of Justice Baah, and if found guilty, sanction him to serve as a deterrent against future acts of rascality on the part of judges; and
“More importantly, we urge His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Republic of Ghana, to not only uphold citizens’ fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution but also to take serious steps to end acts of impunity against journalists in his country.
“We are pleased that Mr. Anas is appealing Justice Eric Baar’s decision and hope that the Court of Appeal will consider the evidence and facts of the case on their merits,” CENOZO stated.