LGBTI centre forced to close its doors after police raid; journalist arrested

Association

LGBTI centre forced to close after raid

On 24th February 2021, Ghana’s first LGBTI community centre in Accra, organised by LGBT+ Rights Ghana, closed down after security forces raided the centre. A backlash followed the opening of the centre on 31st January 2021, with church groups, political figures and anti-LGBTI organisations calling for the closure of the centre and the arrest of the organisers. On 11th February 2021, the executive secretary of the organisation the National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values – made up by representatives from religious groups – started a campaign urging officials to close down the LGBTI centre. Anti-LGBTI discourse since has been picked up by officials and politicians, while media provided the platforms for this discourse, according to African Arguments. Alex Kofi Donkor, director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana commented to the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

“We expected some homophobic organisations would use the opportunity to exploit the situation and stoke tension against the community, but the anti-gay hateful reaction has been unprecedented.”

Section 104(1)(b) of the Criminal Code criminalises “unnatural carnal knowledge”, which is rarely enforced in Ghana. A 2018 report by Human Rights Watch documents the physical violence, psychological abuse, extortion and discrimination to which LGBTI people are frequently subjected in Ghana.

Expression

Journalist arrested

On 1st April 2021, plainclothes police officers arrested journalist David Tamakloe at a hotel in Accra when he arrived to interview local politician and businesswoman Eunice Jacqueline Buah, and seized his two phones and mobile hotspot. The journalist - the editor-in-chief of the Whatsup News website - is accused of “attempting to commit extortion” and “publication of false news” under Sections 18, 151 and 208 of the Criminal Offences Act, with the first punishable with a prison sentence of up to ten years and the latter up to three years, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Officers told Tamakloe during his detention that Buah had filed a complaint against him.

Tamakloe spent the night in detention and was released on bail the following day, 2nd April 2021 and he was mandated to present himself to the police station on 6th April 2021, when the journalist was asked to sign a consent to allow police to access his phones. Tamakloe told the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) that he denies the accusations and that his arrest is an act of intimidation.

Judicial Service instructs media outlets to remove “hateful, vengeful and incendiary” content

On 24th February 2021, lawyers for the Judicial Service of Ghana instructed media outlets to remove “hateful, spiteful, vengeful and incendiary” content in their reporting on the Supreme Court hearing on the petition by former President and opposition presidential candidate John Mahama, who was defeated in the December 2020 presidential elections by incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo. The Supreme Court, which started in January 2021, ruled on 4th March 2021 that the case had no merits and dismissed the election petition.

Ravi R. Prasad of the International Press Institute (IPI) commented:

“The instructions by the Judicial Services to media organisations ordering them to refrain from criticising judges is a violation of press freedom. It is the function of the media to shine a light on the actions of different pillars of the government in any democracy. The instructions should be withdrawn, and the media should be allowed to express critical views.”