In our Saturday, November 21, 2020, issue, we carried a news story in which we reported that the Law Reform Commission had held a day’s workshop to validate the Defamation Bill, which seeks to codify all existing laws on defamation to suit the Ghanaian context.
The initiation of the Defamation Bill is in the light of the fact that currently, Ghana has no law on defamation though the 1992 Constitution makes provision for libel, the publication of false statement in the print media, journals, articles; and slander, which deals with verbal communication that imputes falsehood against someone’s reputation.
As part of efforts at law reforms, officials have explained that over the years, the country relied on “common law” from other jurisdictions in settling cases of defamation.
Certainly, a law on defamation will not only contextualise issues, but will be binding on all individuals to ensure that truth is upheld at all times.
Articles 162 and 163 of the 1992 constitution deals with the Freedom and Responsibility of the media, and indeed, Article 164 clearly states: “The provisions of articles 162 and 163 of this Constitution are subjects to laws that are reasonably required in the interest of national security, public order, public morality and for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons.”
It is, therefore, gratifying that Ghana has seen the need for a law that is required to protect the reputation of individuals from unjustifiable attacks in the eyes of right-thinking members of society.
The newly-drafted Defamation Bill indicates that “a person is liable to defamation where spoken words or other sounds, writing, printing, effigy, paintings, gesture or any other methods signifying meaning publish defamatory matter concerning another person, without lawful justification.”
We are made to understand that the Defamation Bill, when passed into law, will be a game changer in Ghana’s legal reform framework to protect people’s right and reputation.
As a society, we owe it a duty to take care of one another, especially when it has to do with reputation.
Ghana has come a long way in its democracy; and there is the need for citizens to consolidate the gains made under the system of governance, by taking steps to uphold the enjoyment of freedom of speech and at the same time protect the rights and freedoms of others, especially against unjustifiable attacks on people’s hard-earned reputation.
The Ghanaian Times is asking for more due diligence on the draft bill so that when finally passed into law, it will stand the test of time by meeting the demands of the periodic review of our legal regime in line with the changing needs of society.
We urge journalists and media practitioners to avail themselves of this opportunity and apprise themselves with the draft bill. This is the only way they can be conversant with the provisions of the bill and guard against any act of defamation when it is passed into law.
More importantly, it behoves the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA), the umbrella organisation representing journalists in the country, which seeks professional standards, and promotion and defence of press freedom among other safeguards, to make meaningful inputs into the draft bill.
In fact, this is a great opportunity for the GJA to improve the media landscape, by helping shape the draft bill so that it inures to high ethical standards in the practice of journalism in the country.