Concern over calls to shut social media during elections

Expression

At a media briefing in Accra on 26 May, Ghana’s Inspector General of Police hinted that social media platforms could be shut down during Ghana’s presidential elections in November 2016. His suggestion was criticised by political parties, civil society groups (including the Alliance for Accountable Governance) and highly respected Ghanaian figures such as Kofi Annan. In a related development, President John Mahama complained about incessant attacks directed at his appointees by anonymous accounts on social media, particularly related to the issue of corruption. Social media was also the focus of a petition submitted by telecommunications companies to the National Communications Authority (NCA). The companies asked the regulator to restrict the use of applications such as WhatsApp and Viber, which allow users to make free calls. In response, the Minister of Communications said the government was not considering imposing such restrictions. In a separate recent development, Joy FM suspended its morning show host Kojo Yankson for two weeks, after Mr Yankson referred to President Mahama as “an armed robber”.

Peaceful Assembly

In May and June, peaceful protests were held in a number of places across the country, although there were some protest-related disputes. For instance, the National Labour Commission (NLC) described as illegal an ongoing strike by members of the Judicial Service Staff Association (JUSSAG). The Executive Secretary of the NLC explained that because JUSSAG failed to provide the proper notification, it had violated the legal procedure required prior to holding a strike. In another incident in the Ashanti region of Ghana, police arrested two people for reportedly hooting at the president. The two civilians were part of an group of protesters in Ejisu and adjoining communities, where the president had gone to inspect development projects as part of his “accounting to the people” tour. Also in the Ashanti region, scores of residents in Kumasi demonstrated against the police for allegedly beating a 27-year old man to death during his arrest. Meanwhile, over 200 rural women farmers embarked on a peaceful demonstration through the principal streets of Wa, the Upper West Regional capital. They were protesting against  Monsanto, a leading bio-tech corporation, to demonstrate their disapproval of genetically modified crops in Ghana.