The Private Newspaper and Online Publishers Association (PRINPAG) has expressed shocked at the arrest and detention of its Vice-President, David Sitsope Tamakloe, who is also the Managing Editor of Whatsup News, an online newspaper, by the Ghana Police Service.
He was arrested in Accra in the late afternoon of Wednesday, October 7, 2020.
Mr Tamakloe was said to have been arrested for publishing a news item in Whatsup News, a virtual publication, capturing the concerns raised by some Ewes and Northerners resident in the New Edubiase Constituency in the Ashanti Region.
According to the police, Mr Tamakloe was arrested based on a bench warrant issued by the New Edubiase District Court, because he had failed to honour an invitation extended to him to assist the police in their investigations into the complaint.
PRINPAG in a statement signed by its President Andrew Edwin Arthur and copied to the Ghanaian Times yesterday said, the arrest and detention of its Vice President infringed his constitutional right as a journalist, who by his profession, has the mandate and the duty to bring the concerns of all segments of the population to the attention of the powers that be, for redress.
“We are also of the opinion that, such complaints against journalists could best be handled by the National Media Commission (NMC), which has a complaints and settlement mechanism that could have been resorted to by the complainant and the police as well to help address the issues at stake,” it added.
While condemning the arrest and detention of Mr Tamakloe, the leadership of PRINPAG reminded the police, especially and the general public that, this and other equally unconventional means of arrests of journalists for doing their work, go a long way to negatively affect Ghana’s press freedom ratings and also intimidate media practitioners to compromise their role as members of the fourth estate of the realm and as the watchdogs of society.
The leadership of PRINPAG therefore called on all well-meaning Ghanaians and lovers of media independence and press freedom, to come out and condemn the action by the police, which they view as defeating the purpose of the repeal of the criminal libel law from the statute books.
According to them, this attitude and other similar uncomplimentary conducts against journalists and the media in Ghana, accumulate to negatively affect Ghana’s record and also label it as a country that stifles press freedom and free speech guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.
PRINPAG is of the opinion that, the arrest and detention of its Vice President constitute abuse of power by the police and is meant to intimidate Mr Tamakloe and other serious-minded journalists in the country.
PRINPAG is also of the view that, as a journalist, he only published the concerns of some aggrieved Ghanaians, which is his duty by the nature of his profession.
“We are therefore at a loss as to the high-handedness with which the police handled the entire saga. As we solidarise with our colleague, one question that keeps raging through our minds is: Why arrest a journalist for being the voice of the voiceless in line with his constitutional mandate as a member of the fourth estate of the realm?” it queried.
PRINPAG was also of the view that, a journalist who publishes the concerns of members of the public has not committed any criminal offence to be arrested and detained overnight by the police before being granted bail, the way things turned out.
“PRINPAG reminds all Ghanaians that, the ability of the media to function effectively as the fourth estate of the realm is hooked firmly on the maximum co-operation it receives from the different entities within society at whose service it operates.
By arresting and detaining Mr Tamakloe over such a publication, the police engaged in the unconstitutional act of intimidating the journalist and by extension, all journalists in the country,” the statement said.
PRINPAG therefore expressed disappointment with the unprofessional conduct of the police in the matter and demanded thorough investigations into the manner in which the police handled the case.
The leadership of PRINPAG urged all lovers of press freedom and the independence of the media, to join forces with it to condemn the unprofessional conduct of the police and to demand unconditional apology from the leadership of the Ghana Police Service.
“PRINPAG also demands that, any over-zealous police officer, who will be found to have misconducted himself in the manner in which the Editor was handled, should be brought to book and appropriate sanctions applied against him to serve as a deterrent to others.
The leadership of PRINPAG assures its members as well as members of the general public that, even though our colleague has been granted bail, the Association will not rest on its oars but will show interest in the case until justice is done by the Court in this case,” the statement concluded.
BY TIMES REPORTER