Monday, July 26, 2010

GJA broker peace between Times, Police

Mr. Ransford Tetteh is the president of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA)

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By William Yaw Owusu

Saturday July 24, 2010
The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) says it has been able to resolve “amicably” the matter in which the Ghanaian Times, a state-owned daily newspaper was invited by the Police Criminal Investigations Department to answer questions of allegations of spreading false rumour.

This is the second time in three days that the GJA has had to step in to resolve impasse between the police and the media.

The first related incident was the invitation of the Acting Editor of Joy FM, Ato Kwamena Dadzie by the police for “publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public” under Section 208 of the Criminal Code 1960.

Mr. Dadzie was interrogated at the headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service after he carried a story on Joy FM that the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA) withdrew its petition against the STX Housing deal from Parliament because of death threats on the lives of the Association’s executives.

The action taken by the police continues to receive massive condemnation from the public particularly civil society organizations who are of the view that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government is trying to use the security agencies to gag the media which is seen as pacesetter on the African continent.

As a result, the GJA held a meeting with the Minister of Information, John Tia Akologu, his deputy James Agyenim-Boateng and Stan Dogbe, a Presidential Aide to resolve the issue and the Ministry after the deliberations “welcomed the request from the GJA for the Ministry to assist to discontinue the case against Joy FM.”

Just as the dust was settling, the police again on July 21, 2010 invited the Editor of Ghanaian Times for questioning following a story it carried on July 21 with the headline “Robbers occupy five police buildings.”

After another round of meeting yesterday, Mr. Affail Monney Vice President of the GJA who had led the delegation to deliberate on the Joy FM issue told Daily Guide that “we have been able to resolve the issue amicably with the police.”
He said “the GJA still maintains its position that it will not compromise on the criminalization of free speech in the country.”

He said the police also expressed their “misgivings” about the Ghanaian Times story and also urged the GJA to take steps to bring more professionalism into the practice.

“We accepted their concerns and they also respected our position.”

Mr. Monney said he was accompanied by Bright Blewu (General Secretary), Dave Agbenu (Organizing Secretary), Mrs. Linda Asante-Agyei ( Treasurer) and Kwasi Afriyie Badu (Legal Advisor) as well as the Ghanaian Times Editor Mr. Enimil Ashong while DSP Kwasi Ofori, Head of the Police Public Affairs led the police delegation.

The police had said that the story has the tendency to spread false news to cause fear and alarm with DSP Ofori quoted on Joy News as saying that the story is false and intended to denigrate the service.

He had said the content of the story failed to give credence to its headline “and this amounts to false information, trying to create fear in that environment and [the story] has nothing good to tell about the police”.

DSP Ofori had also said the editor would be required to substantiate the claims that armed robbers are indeed occupying a police building. He said the publication “has dragged the good name of the police service into disrepute”.

The Ghanaian Times on July 21, 2010 reported among other things that armed robbers have taken over five uncompleted storey buildings at Aboso, a suburb of Swedru meant to serve as office and residential accommodation for the police.

According to the national daily the buildings, which have been abandoned for the past 30 years have deteriorated extensively and the land encroached upon.

The Central Regional Police Commander, Deputy Commissioner of Police Stephen Andoh Kwofie had told the Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence and Interior on a working visit to the area on Monday that the projects had been captured in the budget every year, but no allocations had ever been made for its completion.

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