Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, is saddened by reports of recent arrests and persecution of some journalists.
The Speaker, who is not happy with the recent development, believes that the practice of detaining journalists over allegations of false publications is archaic.
He believes it should be a civil issue rather than a criminal case, and the latter should not be entertained.
Mr Bagbin was speaking at the commissioning of the Parliamentary Press Corps Centre on Friday, 18 February 2022.
“The allegations of misreporting; allegations that can be considered as misdemeanours, you proceed to arrest the person, such practice belongs to yesteryears not today. Those who know the writings of journalists when it offends them know what to do. They have recourse to the law.
“Those are civil matters. They are not criminal. I’m not for a moment holding brief for irresponsible and unprofessional conduct of journalists. I am simply saying that there is a cure in our current legal regime.
“The tendency on the part of the police to arrest journalists for what they describe as mistakes is old school. It’s turning this country into the dark ages of media persecution,” Mr Bagbin warned during the inauguration on Friday.
The former Nadowli-Kaleo MP stated that any attempt by politicians to use the police to serve as a regulator for ethical journalism would fail.
“The police cannot assume responsibility for responsible practice in Ghana by scanning newspapers and news and arresting journalists for errors and misrepresentations. I don’t know how our police CID was trained that if there is an allegation made against a citizen, the first thing is to arrest that citizen. I don’t know where they got that law from.
“We invite the citizen, and the citizen would voluntarily appear before you and discuss the situation, but when the citizen is refusing or failing to do so, and you have evidence that the citizen wants to escape from the ambit of the law, that is when you can proceed and arrest the citizen,” he added.
Within three weeks, four journalists and activists were arrested by the police on allegations of false publication made on radio or social media platforms.
Accra FM’s Bobie Ansah, Power FM’s Oheneba Boamah Bennie, and the Executive Director of the Alliance For Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA), Mensah Thompson, were all picked up for various offences.
Bobie Ansah was arrested by police on Thursday, 10 February 2022, for the publication of false news and offensive conduct conducive to the breach of peace.
He was arraigned at the Kaneshie District Court, where he pleaded not guilty to both charges. Bobbie is currently on a GH₵50, 000 bail sum.
PowerFM’s Oheneba Boamah Bennie was also convicted for allegedly making false claims against President Akufo-Addo and the justices of the Supreme Court concerning the 2020 election petition.
The presenter was handed 14 days jail term by the Accra High Court after Godfred Dame, the Attorney General, charged him with contempt.
He was also fined ¢3000 by the court presided over by Justice Elfreda Dankyi on Tuesday, 8 February 2022.
The Executive Director of the Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA), Mensah Thompson, was also charged with the publication of false news and offensive conduct conducive to the breach of peace.
He was granted GH₵50k bail after pleading not guilty to two criminal charges.
The development has reignited conversations on whether Ghana has returned to the dark days of criminal libel, where many journalists were incarcerated over publications they made.