A Circuit Court in Accra, capital of Ghana, remanded Nana Darkwa, a contributor to a radio discussion programme, into prison custody for two weeks over comments he made on a radio station allegedly implicating Ghana’s former President Jerry John Rawlings in a fire that gutted his (Rawlings’) own house on February 14.
In an interview with Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Kwame Akuffo, Darkwa’s lawyer said the court did not give any reason for remanding Darkwa who is said to be a sympathiser of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Darkwa, together with George Best, another supposed opposition sympathiser, were picked up by the police and detained at the Accra regional command of the Ghana Police Service following a complaint filed by Kofi Adams, special aide to the former president.
According to Adams “the gentleman made a categorical statement that the former president burnt his house and dared me, his spokesperson, to come and challenge him, and that he is aware that the former president burnt his house.” He told an Accra-based Joy FM private radio station.
Darkwah was charged with “publishing false information with the intent of causing public harm”, a charge under Article 208 of the country’s Criminal Code.
MFWA considered the remanding of Darkwa for two weeks on a matter of his exercise of his right to free speech, however unsubstantiated, as heavy-handed and not a judicious exercise of the Court’s powers to grant or refuse bail. In the MFWA’s view, this is a matter in which the court could grant bail, at least. There did not appear to be any compelling reason why the accused was refused bail, especially when the law enjoins the court not to use the refusal of bail as a means of punishment.
MFWA demanded that the court frees Darkwa unconditionally in the service of promoting the strengthening of free speech in Ghana’s developing democracy.
We urged all supporters of free speech to protest against the use of archaic laws to stifle free speech in Ghana by the country’s courts.