The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and the Private Newspaper and Online Publishers Association (PRINPAG) are shocked at the arrest and detention of David Sitsope Tamakloe, who is the Managing Editor of Whatsup News, an online newspaper, by the Ghana Police Service.
Mr Tamakloe, who is the Vice President of PRINPAG, was arrested by Tesano police and handed over to the New Edubiase police command on Wednesday for publishing a story on his Whatsapp Newspaper, about the alleged harassment of minority ethnic groups in New Edubiase, which was mentioned at a press conference addressed by Elvis Effriyie Ankrah, Director of Elections of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
He was handcuffed and driven all the way to New Edubiase in the darkest of the night by personnel of the Police Service, most of whom were in mufti during the 3-hour journey.
The police looked like abductors. For the three hours journey, he could only urinate while in handcuffs. They had use unmarked cars. He was not allowed the presence of his lawyers.
The manner of the arrest, portrayed the journalist as a wanted murderer, drug lord or a notorious thief, but his "crime", according to them was that he had published a fake news contrary to Section 208-Publication of False news with Intent to Cause fear and Alarm to Public.
(1) Any person who publishes or reproduces any statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace knowing or having reason to believe that the statement, rumour or report is false is guilty of a misdemeanour.
(2) It is no defence to a charge under subsection (1) that the person charged did not know or did not have reason to believe that the statement, rumour or report was false unless he proves that, prior to publication, he took reasonable measures to verify the accuracy of the statement, rumour or report.
Strangely, the warrant with which Mr Tamakloe was arrested, had asked that he should be produced before the district court on October 22, 2020, however, the New Edubiase police under the Obuase Command, has left many in shock.
In another twist to the bizarre incident, the case was not listed for yesterday, October 8, 2020 and the magistrate was also said to be indisposed and recuperating at home, however, he was granted bail with two sureties in the sum of GHC10, 000.
With the assistance of Lawyer Evans Amakwah, Mr Tamakloe, has since been granted bail and back home.
The arrest looked coordinated and gestapo. As Mr Tamakloe, was away, some unmarked cars full of men, were also seen roaming around his home putting his wife and kids under psychological torture.
Indeed, a friend of Mr Tamakloe, who witnessed the incident and tried taking a picture of the Police vehicle sent from New Edubiase to pick him, was threatened with assault by the Tesano Police.
Some had suggested political maneuvers were behind the arrest. Some of the police officers, including ASP Duodo, who led the arrest, started dropping names of some politicians.
The GJA, statement signed by Affail Monney, its President said it "deeply concerned about the arrest of David Tamakloe, Vice President of the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana, (PRINPAG) for publishing a story in his Whatsapp Newspaper about the alleged harassment of minority ethnic groups in New Edubiase.
"The 1992 Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and creates avenues for persons who feel aggrieved by any media content to complain to the National Media Commission, (NMC)", adding "to the extent that Mr. Tamakloe's arrest relates to his journalistic work, the GJA believes the police action is unconstitutional and undermines the values of our democracy".
"We urge anybody concerned about Mr Tamakloe's work to report him to the NMC.
As we prepare for our 8th democratic elections, the last thing our nation wants is wrongful application of police authority that derails Ghana's democratic ascendancy. This, indeed is the reason why most Africans still revere H.E President Akufo-Addo for leading efforts to repeal the obnoxious criminal libel laws from our statute books. Neither the police nor any person or institution within the security apparatus should act in a way that embarrasses the nation.
The GJA, will continue to follow, with all-consuming attention, these disturbing developments until justice is expeditiously served to assuage the concerns ignited by the circumstances and timing of Mr Tamakloe's arrest and prosecution".
PRINPAG on its part, said Mr Tamakloe, "was arrested in Accra in the late afternoon of Wednesday October 7, 2020".
"Mr Tamakloe was said to have been arrested for publishing a news item in his Whatsup News, a virtual publication, capturing the concerns raised by some Ewes and Northerners resident in the New Edubiase Constituency in the Ashanti Region.
According to the police, Mr Tamakloe was arrested based on a bench warrant issued by the New Edubiase District Court, because he had failed to honour an invitation extended to him to assist the police in their investigations into the complaint.
PRINPAG is of the view that, the arrest and detention of its Vice President, infringed his constitutional right as a journalist, who by his profession, has the mandate and the duty to bring the concerns of all segments of the population to the attention of the powers that be, for redress.
We are also of the opinion that, such complaints against journalists could best be handled by the National Media Commission (NMC), which has a complaints and settlement mechanism that could have been resorted to by the complainant and the police as well to help address the issues at stake.
While condemning the arrest and detention of Mr. Tamakloe, the leadership of PRINPAG is reminding the police, especially and the general public that, this and other equally unconventional means of arrests of journalists for doing their work, go a long way to negatively affect Ghana's press freedom ratings and also intimidate media practitioners to compromise their role as members of the fourth estate of the realm and as the watchdogs of society.
The leadership of PRINPAG therefore calls on all well-meaning Ghanaians and lovers of media independence and press freedom, to come out and condemn the action by the police, which we view as defeating the purpose of the repeal of the criminal libel law from our statute books.
This attitude and other similar uncomplimentary conducts against journalists and the media in Ghana, accumulate to negatively affect Ghana's record and also label it as a country that stifles press freedom and free speech guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.
PRINPAG is of the opinion that, the arrest and detention of its Vice President constitute abuse of power by the police and is meant to intimidate Mr. Tamakloe and other serious-minded journalists in the country.
PRINPAG is of the view that, as a journalist, he only published the concerns of some aggrieved Ghanaians, which is his duty by the nature of his profession. We are therefore at a loss as to the high-handedness with which the police handled the entire saga.
As we solidarise with our colleague, one question that keeps raging through our minds is: Why arrest a journalist for being the voice of the voiceless in line with his constitutional mandate as a member of the fourth estate of the realm?
PRINPAG is also of the view that, a journalist who publishes the concerns of members of the public has not committed any criminal offence to be arrested and detained overnight by the police before being granted bail, the way things turned out.
PRINPAG reminds all Ghanaians that, the ability of the media to function effectively as the fourth estate of the realm is hooked firmly on the maximum co-operation it receives from the different entities within society at whose service it operates.
By arresting and detaining Mr Tamakloe over such a publication, the police engaged in the unconstitutional act of intimidating the journalist and by extension, all journalists in the country.
PRINPAG is therefore disappointed with the unprofessional conduct of the police in this matter and demands thorough investigations into the manner in which the police handled this case.
The leadership of PRINPAG therefore urges all lovers of press freedom and the independence of the media, to join forces with it to condemn the unprofessional conduct of the police and to demand unconditional apology from the leadership of the Ghana Police Service to Mr. Tamakloe, whose only crime was that, he was living up to his constitutional mandate as a journalist, who has a duty to perform in the interest of mother Ghana.
PRINPAG also demands that, any over-zealous police officer, who will be found to have misconducted himself in the manner in which the Editor was handled, should be brought to book and appropriate sanctions applied against him to serve as a deterrent to others.
The leadership of PRINPAG assures its members, as well as members of the general public that, even though our colleague has been granted bail, the Association will not rest on its oars but will show interest in the case until justice is done by the Court in this case.