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Last updated on 25.05.2018 at 07:30

Ghana - Overview

Civic space freedoms are constitutionally protected in Ghana and mostly respected in practice.

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Media watchdog reports 17 journalists attacked in past 15 months

Media watchdog reports 17 journalists attacked in past 15 months

Seventeen journalists have been attacked by state or non-state actors in the past 15 months, according to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). None of the perpetrators have been held accountable to date.

Expression

On 27th March 2018, anti-riot police officers brutally beat Multimedia Group journalist Latif Idris in front of the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Police Service in Accra. Idris had asked a question of police officers while they were dispersing a crowd of National Democratic Congress (NDC) supporters who had gathered at the headquarters following the arrest of NDC Deputy Secretary General Koku Anyidoho. Idris's skull was fractured as a result of the beating. Although the police said there would be an investigation into the incident, at the time of writing, no action had been taken. 

The attack on Idris is part of an increasing trend of physical attacks against journalists in the country. He is the 17th journalist to have been attacked by state or non-state actors in the past 15 months, according to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). None of the perpetrators have been held to acountable. MFWA highlighted several reasons why journalists are under threat, including an existing culture of impunity for crimes against journalists, indifference from state authorities and a lack of safety training for journalists.

On 4th May, well-known party member of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) Hajia Fati slapped Ohemaa Sakyiwaa Ahwenepa, a reporter of the Accra-based radio station Adom FM, when she tried to take a photograph. The attack took place at the NPP headquarters just days after a speech by President Akufo-Addo’s in which he reiterated his strong stance for freedom of expression for all Ghanaians. The President had declared that: 

"I will say, again, that I much prefer the noisy, boisterous, sometimes scurrilous media of today, to the monotonous, praise-singing, sycophantic one of yesteryear. The Ghanaian media has, in fact, enriched the nation’s governance by its curiosity, investigative skills, and persistence".

The speech occurred as UNESCO and the Government of Ghana jointly hosted the 2018 World Press Freedom Day in Accra on the theme of 'Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law'. 

The attack on Ahwenepa adds to the number of such incidents at the NPP headquarters in recent months. The NPP released a statement condemning the latest attack on Ahwenepa. The MFWA called on the police to take action and ensure justice in this case. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 22nd April, thousands of demonstrators across various regions in Ghana, as well as among the diaspora, took to the streets to protest a military cooperation agreement signed between the Ghanaian and U.S. governments. The demonstrations were organised by a group called Ghana First Patriotic Front (GFPF), and was backed by former president John Mahama and the opposition. Protesters claim that the deal is highly unfavorable to Ghana and could threaten the country’s sovereignty. The turnout for the demonstrations was high and no incidents of violence were reported during the actions. 

Association

The right to freedom of association is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of Ghana although there is no specific legislation related to the formation of civil society organisations.

The right to freedom of association is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of Ghana although there is no specific legislation related to the formation of civil society organisations. According to Article 14 of the Ghana Companies Code 1963, civil society organisations must register with the Ministry of Manpower, Youth and Employment and must submit annual reports and statements of accounts to the Social Welfare Department. The Ghanaian government generally respects this right as there is no evidence of CSOs being particularly targeted, while human rights defenders operate mostly in a free environment. Under the constitution and the 2003 labour laws, workers have the right to form and join trade unions.

Peaceful Assembly

Article 21(1) of the constitution provides that all persons shall have the right to freedom of assembly, including the freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations.

Article 21(1) of the constitution provides that all persons shall have the right to freedom of assembly, including the freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations. The 1994 Public Order Act governs the exercise of this right. Under the Act, anyone to hold a demonstration in a public place must notify the police of their plans at least five days before the demonstration. Under the Act, the authorities have the power to postpone demonstrations. Section 3 of the law imposes responsibilities on organisers for any damage caused by a demonstration in which they have participated. While the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is mostly respected in practice, the use of excessive force by police during peaceful demonstrations has been documented.

Expression

Freedom of expression is also constitutionally protected in Ghana, however, recent legislation passed by parliament threatens to undermine this protection.

Freedom of expression is also constitutionally protected in Ghana, however, recent legislation passed by parliament threatens to undermine this protection. In December 2015, Parliament enacted regulations requiring prior authorisation from the National Media Commission before content is disseminated. Criminal libel and sedition laws were repealed in 2001, but the publication of false news with intent to ‘cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace’ is still criminalised. Journalists are occasionally arrested and harassed for reporting on politically sensitive issues. A regional organisation documented eight violations of freedom of expression during the first quarter of 2016. Access to information legislation has been pending for years.