Though there have been four (4) changes of government in this period, peace and stability have reigned before and after every election in the 4th Republic.
Though there is relative peace in Ghana, its democratic credential is also emboldened by the guarantee of media freedom enshrined in the constitution.
Of the major highlights during the 8-year rule of former President John Agyekum Kuffour, repealing the criminal libel law in 2001 counts among the best.
In July 2001, parliament unanimously repealed Criminal Libel and Seditious Laws. The memorandum of the repeal stated that the repeal of these laws, which were enacted during the colonial period to frustrate the freedom of the people and perpetuate servitude, should have been done at the time the country gained independence.
It also stated such laws are unworthy of a society seeking to develop on democratic principles on the basis of transparency and accountability in public life.
The aftermath of this repeal has effected monumental changes in the Ghanaian media landscape. Rarely do media personalities and journalists get hounded or get arrested for dissent and opinion pieces as compared to the past.
It must, however, be stated that a few unfortunate incidents that has trampled on the rights of journalists have happened over the years.
There have been several instances where security operatives have assaulted media personalities in their line of duty. And such incidents have happened within the subsequent governments after the repeal in 2001.
However, there has been a surge in such ‘brutalities’ against journalists in their line of duty in recent times.
Some police officers who assaulted a journalist from Accra based Joy FM in 2018, Latif Iddris are yet to face prosecution or an indictment.
Latif was severely beating at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) for asking questions during the detention of former deputy General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress, Koku Anyidoho.
Earlier this year, undercover journalist who worked for Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ Tiger Eye PI was gunned down by unknown thugs at Madina in Accra.
The victim, Ahmed Hussein Suale, who died instantly from the shooting, was one of the lead investigators of the expose that ousted former Ghana Football Association’s (GFA) president, Kwesi Nyantakyi.
For a murder that was widely condemned across the world, not a single suspect is yet to be apprehended for prosecution. This, to a lot of critics, represents a blot on the much-touted media freedom in Ghana.
To add unto these unfortunate crimes against journalists recently in Ghana, national security operatives raided the office of online news portal, Modern Ghana to arrest its editor and a reporter over an alleged libelous article on the Minister of National Security, Albert Kan Dapaah last week.
The editor of modernghana.com, William Nana Beeko, who confirmed the raid to Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), said the intruders did not present any warrant, adding that they seized laptops from the media organisation and arrested his deputy editor, Emmanuel Ajarfor Abugri, as well as Emmanuel Yeboah Britwum, a reporter.
The deputy editor claims he was subjected to electric shock and other forms of torture by national security operatives after his arrest last Thursday.
Though operatives of national security have denied these allegations, there has been a furore among media practitioners and stakeholders over the arrest and detention of the journalists in the first place.
Ironically, the repeal of the criminal libel law was championed by President Akufo-Addo, who was the Attorney General and Minister of Justice at the time. It is however, bizarre that under his tenure there will be such a brazen infringement on the rights of media personnel.
This move is seen as an attempt to crash dissent and instill fear into government critics.
Reacting to this incident, the Executive Director of MWFA angrily stated that: “We are a country governed by law and so when an action constitutes a violation of an individual, then we take it as a responsibility to demand that the right thing is done. That is the basis of our action. I think that authorities act in certain ways because they think they have power to arrest, detain and keep people arbitrary."
"But if later, it is proven that they just used their power and abused it, I think we need to help such people to enjoy their fundamental human rights. This includes seeking redress from our judicial system is something we will not hesitate to do”, he added.
Alarmingly, 135 critical media houses have been closed down, including Radio Gold and Radio XZY and ace investigative journalist Mannaseh Azure Awuni is reportedly in hiding over an expose he did on a ‘vigilante’ group operating at the Christianborg Castle in Accra.
The details of who is speaking the truth on what transpired at the offices of the national security remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure; there’s a calculated attempt by government and its appendages to crash dissent and diverging views in the media.