Editor’s Prosecution: New Edubiase Police misusing state powers

The Editor-In-Chief of Whatsup News, David Tamakloe. The Editor-In-Chief of Whatsup News, David Tamakloe.

The New Edubiase Magistrate Court last Thursday, withdrew the charges slapped on the Editor-In-Chief of Whatsup News, David Tamakloe.

This meant that, he was effectively discharged of the charges of publishing Fake News.

However, hardly had he stepped out of the dock, then he was slapped with the same charge again. All the prosecutor did was to move the editor from being the secondary accused to now being the first accused.

Interestingly, the New Edubiase traditional ruler, Nana Oguahyia Oduro-Panin Birikorang, who supposedly filed a complaint, leading to the arrest of Mr Tamakloe over the supposed false news, has said he did not file any official complaint as alleged by the New Edubiase Police Command.

This means that the case against Mr Tamakloe, does not really have a complainant.

But the strange suit and the behavior of the court has raised serious questions about the integrity of the Ghanaian judicial system.

This is given the fact that, the said story published by Whatsup News was directly sourced from a statement presented by the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) about four months ago.

Both local and international civil society groups, have roundly condemned the apparent victimization of Ghana's premier virtual newspaper for its critical stance on national issues, including corruption, impunity, lawlessness among other vices, which are seen as drawbacks for the country.

Also, umbrella bodies of the media fraternity in Ghana, including the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG) have issued scathing statements condemning the diabolical targeting of Whatsup News by agents of the Akufo-Addo administration using the state machinery.

The Whatsup News editor was on October 7, 2020, ambushed and arrested Rambo-styled near his office by fully armed plain clothed Police officers who drove him for about seven (7) hours in handcuffs to New Edubiase in the middle of the night and put him in custody on allegations that he had published false news.

However, the story was a report from a press conference by the NDC on July 7, 2020.

The NDC had presented evidence to prove that during the contentious voters' registration exercise, Ewes from the Volta Region and people of Northern extraction, were hounded out and prevented from registering to vote in New Edubiase, because they were not native Ashantis from the town.

According to Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, the NDC's Director of Elections, who presented the evidence, the NDC, had received reports of NPP supporters and members, who are natives of New Edubiase, telling Ewes and Northerners to leave their land and go and register elsewhere.

After the press conference, Whatsup News had seen videos of people said to be Ashanti natives of New Edubiase shouting obscenities at people believed to be Ewes and Northerners amidst threats that they were not welcome to register as voters in New Edubiase, part of the traditional stronghold of the governing NPP.

On July 8, 2020, WhatsUp News used the basis of the evidence seen and the statement of the NDC to compose a news story.

A few days after the publication, the Police in New Edubiase, arrested a reader of the digital newspaper, one Mr Francis Kwame Konu, and accused him of sharing false news when he shared the report on a social media platform.

Mr Konu, got in touch with WhatsUp News and Mr Tamakloe informed the Police that the story was from a press conference by the NDC.

It was while MrTamakloe was under the impression that the issue had been resolved that the New Edubiase Police swooped down on him to arrest him.

No formal complaint was made to Whatsup News, neither was Whatsup News reported to the media regulator, the National Media Commission (NMC).

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) has reported that Nana Oguahyia Oduro-Panin Birikorang told them on phone that he never filed any case against Mr Tamakloe, but that following the story about natives in New Edubiase hounding Ewes and Northerners which was reported by WhatsUp News, he called some political and security leaders of the town to investigate its veracity.

"Birirkorang told CPJ by phone that he did not file a complaint against Tamakloe, but said he had called a group of leaders in the region, including political and security officials, to ask for an investigation into the July 8 report," the CPJ stated in the October 16 report.

The CPJ which is headquartered in New York, USA, also reported that Kessie Abayie-Buckman, spokesperson of the Ghana Police Service, who said Mr Tamakloe was arrested on charges of publishing false news, could not state the source of the allegations against him.

Confirming that the case against Mr Tamakloe, does not really have a complainant.

She, however, told the Committee that the case is now with the Attorney General and that she will decide what to do with it.

"Authorities in Ghana should ensure that the criminal charge against journalist David Tamakloe is dropped and that he is permitted to work freely," said Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa Program's coordinator, from New York. "Ghana's police have a pattern of trying to intimidate journalists, which must end," she added.

Source: www.theheraldghana.com