The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) was very active throughout 2002 and its sometimes virulent criticism of the local press was surprising. Its vice-president, Yaw Owusu-Addo, who also heads the radio division of the state-run broadcaster Radio Gambia, caused a stir by saying half the country’s journalists should be imprisoned for libel.
The press was affected by the serious clan violence that convulsed northern Ghana in 2002, leaving about 40 dead. Several newspapers became over-impassioned and gave in to insult and calumny. The GJA approved a code of conduct for journalists in crisis situations, that aimed to encourage responsibility and combat propaganda and hate messages. It suggested the government should name an administrator to enforce the code and proposed a 14-day prison sentence for violators. The GJA also urged the fast-growing number of privately-owned radio stations to stop letting listeners use phone-in programmes to make aggressive, insulting or offensive comments on the air.
Three draft press laws proposed by the National Media Commission (NMC) at the end of the year met with strong opposition from the GJA, which said they would give the government additional means to ban news media, censor news and jail journalists who criticised the regime. The draft laws would also give additional powers to the NMC to act like a tribunal and determine the sentences to be imposed on errant journalists. The GJA said the laws should be withdrawn and reviewed by a committee of officials and experts to ensure they did not violate constitution.
Seven journalists physically attacked
The founder of a sect burst into the studios of regional radio station Otec FM on 5 April and tried to gun down presenter Blessed Godbrain Smart. Radio staff overpowered him. Smart said the radio had carried a report a week earlier questioning the sect leader’s integrity. In March, the sect leader had threatened to kill the editor of the weekly Searchlight, Kenneth Agyie Kuranchie.
A TV3 television crew led by reporter J. K. Arthur was attacked by a soldier in the Accra area on 19 July while following a convoy of 500 persons being rehoused after fleeing clan violence. The soldier, who belonged to a different clan from the refugees, roughed up the journalists, threatening anyone who tried to meddle in the ethnic group’s internal struggles.
Yaw Adofo Takyi, a reporter with the National Concord newspaper, was manhandled at the behest of the director of a privately-owned lottery company, Stephen Asare, when he went to an appointment with Asare on 2 September and began asking about alleged fraud in the latest draw. Asare refused to answer, and instructed bodyguards to make Takyi hand over his tape recorder. The bodyguards then escorted Takyi to the nearest police station where police detained him for several hours.
Mohammed Harruna, a journalist with the Accra Daily Mail, was manhandled by two state security agents in a car park of the Palm Royal Beach Hotel in Accra on 23 September during the inauguration of a charitable foundation by President John Kufuor and former US President Bill Clinton. The agents confiscated his camera and accused him of not being authorised to attend although he was carrying an official invitation issued by the justice ministry.
Paul Adom Otchere, a radio reporter with Joy FM, and Owusu Agyepong, editor of the magazine Heritage, were roughed up on 21 December by security guards of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) who accused them of supporting the ruling party.
Two journalists threatened
Kweku Baako, editor of the magazine Crusading Guide, alleged on 23 March 2002 that supporters of former President Jerry Rawlings were planning to eliminate him and Margaret Amoakohene, course director at Ghana university’s institute for communication studies, for reporting that Rawlings’ wife had a Swiss bank account. Baako and Amoakohene allegedly received a second death threat in the form of a letter in early August, again coming from Rawlings’ supporters.
The editor of the weekly Searchlight, Kenneth Agyie Kuranchie, said on 24 March he had received a death threat from a Protestant pastor in the central city of Kumasi after running a story questioning the authenticity of the miracles supposedly performed by young pastors in the Kumasi area.
Pressure and obstruction
Four days after declaring a state of emergency in the northern town of Yendi because of clan violence within the Dagomba ethnic group, the authorities announced on 31 March 2002 that all news about the clashes in the north would have to be cleared with the information ministry before publication. Accusing certain news media of "highly explosive" or even "calculated" reporting, the government said the 1994 emergency powers act allowed it to censor all news reports coming from, or concerning an area where a state emergency existed. The violence that erupted on 25 March between the Andani and Abudu clans of the Dagomba group had led to the death, two days later, of the Dagomba king, Yakubu Andani II, and about 40 other persons in Yendi.