Friday, July 23, 2010

Govt Exposed Over Ato’s Arrest

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Mr. John Tia Akologu is the Minister of Information in Ghana

By William Yaw Owusu

Friday July 23, 2010
Contrary to claims by the Ministry of Information that the government does not have any hand in the arrest of Ato Kwamena Dadzie, Acting News Editor of Joy FM, the Daily Guide can confirm that it was the government that ‘directed’ the police to ‘investigate’ the radio station’s claim.

This is evidenced in the two statements released so far by the Ministry of Information since Joy FM aired a story to the effect that the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA) withdrew its petition against the STX Housing Project from Parliament because of death threats received by executives of the Association.

On July 21, 2010, the Information Minister John Tia Akologu, in a news release had said “the work of the police must be delinked from central government and for that matter the Ministry of Information because the decision to caution the Joy FM editor and refer the matter to the Attorney General was and remains the decision of the Police.”

Yet on July 7, 2010 after Joy FM had carried the news on July 6, 2010, the same Minister in a news release said “government has directed the security agencies to investigate the claim because death threats were not to be handled lightly.”

The release had asked the management of Joy FM to substantiate its claims that the GREDA withdrew its petition against the STX Housing Project from parliament because of death threats received by executives of the association.

“Government has taken note of a Joy FM report that claimed that its sources have confirmed to it that the Ghana Real Estate Developer’s Association (GREDA) withdrew its petition against the STX Housing Project from Parliament because of death threats received by executives of the Association,” the statement said.

“Government is deeply offended by the Joy FM publication and demands that the management of the station substantiates its claims immediately or retracts the allegations and apologises to the President, Government and people of Ghana accordingly.”

The Minister blasted some organizations for their comments on the issue. He said it was unfortunate statements attributed to the Ghana Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), National Media Commission (NMC), Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and others in the matter of the caution statement taken from Joy FM over the broadcast of alleged death threats.

The statement noted that it will be important for persons commenting and accusing government of attempts to truncate press freedom in the country to educate themselves on and about the issues at stake, understand the position of the police and also the legal limits to press freedom.

The statement said “the Ministry has also noted the deliberate attempt by Joy FM to continue the peddling of falsehood in this matter by claiming in its news broadcasts that its news editor has been charged for refusing to disclose his source of information for the death threats Joy FM claimed were received by some executives of the Ghana Real Estates Developers Association (GREDA).

However, the Police Administration has not denied the fact that it cautioned Ato Kwamena Dadzie and has granted him police enquiry bail.

The release had quoted Mr. Tia Akologu as saying that “the Ministry does not consider criminal prosecution an answer to the many cases of unethical practices” and recounted many instances of what he called “Joy FM’s unprofessional broadcasts” yet the statement goes further to say “the Minister welcomed the request from the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) for the Ministry to assist to discontinue the case against Joy FM”

As if that is not enough, the police have once again invited the Editor of state-owned media, Ghanaian Times for questioning following a story it carried on July 21 with the headline “Robbers occupy five police buildings.”

The Ministry has not commented on this one but when contacted, Mr. Enimil Ashong who is the Editor of the Ghanaian Times in a telephone interview declined to make any comment on the matter for now except to say that “the police have not formally invited me. I have not gone to anybody. I also heard the issue in the media. Let us wait and see what will happen next.”

However, Head of the Police Public Affairs, DSP Kwesi Ofori confirmed to Joy FM content of the state-owned newspaper’s 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”.

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.

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