Abuja, October 16, 2020–Authorities in Ghana should immediately drop all charges against journalist David Tamakloe and halt intimidation of journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On October 7, at around 5:30 pm, a group of plain-clothed police officers arrested Tamakloe, the editor in chief of the privately owned Whatsup News website, on the street near his office in Ghana’s capital, Accra, for a July 8 report that allegedly violated Ghana’s criminal code, according to Tamakloe who spoke by phone with CPJ. The July 8 report, which CPJ reviewed, alleged a pre-election crisis in the Ashanti region.
Tamakloe, who also serves as the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana’s vice president, said the officers claimed they had an arrest warrant and showed him a piece of paper from a distance, but did not allow him to read it. The officers took him to the nearby Tenaso police station, before handcuffing and driving him six hours to another police station in New Edubiase, a district in the Ashanti region, where he was detained overnight and released on bail on October 8 with a 10,000 cedis ($1,721) bond and two sureties.
“Authorities in Ghana should ensure that the criminal charge against journalist David Tamakloe is dropped and that he is permitted to work freely,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa Program’s coordinator, from New York. “Ghana’s police have a pattern of trying to intimidate journalists, which must end.”
Tamakloe said the police told him that his arrest followed a complaint by the traditional leader of Edubiase, Nana Oguahyia Oduro-Panin Birikorang, that the July 8 report was false. David Annan, a lawyer representing Tamakloe, told CPJ that on October 8 the journalist was taken to court and charged under section 208 of Ghana’s 1960 criminal code relating to “publication of false news,” but never submitted a plea. Tamakloe said he was shown the charge sheet only briefly, then released and instructed to return to court on October 22 to be tried with Kwame Konu, a Ghanian citizen previously arrested for sharing the story on social media.
Tamakloe told CPJ that the police asked for his phone while he was in custody, but he had given it to a friend before his arrest.
Birirkorang told CPJ by phone that he did not file a complaint against Tamakloe, but said he had called a group of leaders in the region, including political and security officials, to ask for an investigation into the July 8 report.
Sheila Kessie Abayie-Buckman, a spokesperson for the Ghana police, told CPJ via messaging app that Tamakloe was arrested on allegations of publishing false news. She did not respond to questions on the source of the allegations and said the matter could only be terminated on instructions from Ghana’s attorney general.