The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) welcomes the release on bail of the Editor-in-Chief of the Whatsup News, David Tamakloe and demand that charges against him are dropped.
Tamakloe was charged with the publication of “false news” and granted a bail of GHC 10,000 (about $1,800) with two sureties by a Magistrate Court at New Edubiase in the Ashanti region of Ghana on October 8, 2020. The case has been adjourned to October 22, 2020.
Police officers stormed the offices of the online news outlet in Accra on October 7, 2020 and arrested Tamakloe, over a publication on his platform. The police also reportedly seized the mobile phone of a Whatsup News correspondent and forced him to delete the picture he had taken as the event unfolded.
The Whatsup News had reported that some indigenes of New Edubiase in the Ashanti Region were harassing members of settler communities perceived to be sympathisers of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) during nationwide voter registration exercise in July.
A local radio station, Edubiaseman FM discussed the story its morning show which led to the morning show host being summoned to assist the police in establishing the truth in that allegation. The morning show host then mentioned David Tamakloe’s platform as the source of the information.
The New Edubiase police then invited David in July to come and assist in investigations but they claimed he failed to honour their invitations. Frustrated over the development, the police then went to court to secure a bench warrant to effect the journalist’s arrest.
The President of the Private Newspapers Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG) Edwin Arthur, told the MFWA that according to David’s lawyer, the said story emanated from a press conference organised by the NDC constituency executives.
The Director of Elections of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, during a press conference at the party headquarters in Accra, also made the same allegations.
“Whatsup News had provided the Edubiase police with the NDC press statement and other pieces of evidence provided by the NDC to back its claim of ethnic discrimination,” Raphael Ofori-Adeniran, Managing Editor of the newspaper said in a news story.
When contacted, the New Edubiase District Police Commander, DSP Francis Ackah confirmed to MFWA that his outfit had “arrested Francis Kwame Konu who read the story on radio.” He added that both Konu and Tamaklo will be arraigned on October 22.
This is the second time in four months that the police have intimidated journalists over their publications. On June 3, 2020, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service summoned and interrogated Kofi Adomah of Angel FM over his YouTube video. The police said the journalist’s predictions of the content of President Akuffo-Addo’s May 31, 2020 COVID-19 address to Ghanaians were too accurate to be a mere coincidence, and pressurised him to reveal his sources.
The gestapo-style arrest of David Tamakloe also revives memories of the arrest and detention of two journalists of the online newspaper Moderngha.com on June 17, 2019. National security operatives stormed the newspaper’s office in Accra and arrested the editor and seized computers over a critical publication about the Ghana’s National Security minister.
The MFWA views the arrest of Tamakloe and Konu as unfortunate and demand that the charges are completely dropped.