Alexander Adu Gyamfi, a sympathizer of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) was arrested by the police in Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city, for describing the country’s President as a “chimpanzee” during a radio discussion programme.
Gyamfi, who is popularly known as “High Priest” was a panelist on the morning show on the Kumasi-based Fox FM, in which his co-panelist from the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) raised concerns about the negative propaganda that he claimed were being waged against Nana Akufo-Addo, a contender for the NPP presidential candidature in the party’s primaries slated for August 2010, and that this negative campaign in the NPP would help the fortunes of the NDC in the 2012 general elections.
The police said during Gyamfi’s arrest that it was in his own interest and that the aim was to protect him from angry NDC youth who had besieged the radio station to register their displeasure following his “insulting” comments. However, Chief Inspector Mohammed Tanko, the Ashanti Regional Public Relations Officer of the Police, who spoke on Joy FM radio station, said “We did not arrest him for insulting the President.” “We arrested him for offensive conduct contrary to section 207 of Ghana’s Criminal Code”.
Gyamfi, who was on police enquiry bail was to be charged with “offensive conduct”, under Section 207 of the Criminal Code, was left off the hook upon the intervention of President John Atta Mills.
At a news conference in Kumasi on May 26, the regional Commander, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCOP), Patrick Timbilla, quoted President Mills as saying “I am not interested in the matter,” as he was focused on his “Better Ghana Agenda” programme for the country. The DCOP therefore said all charges against Gyamfi had been dropped.
That was the second time that the police had arrested an NPP activist over comments made on air. OnFebruary 18, Nana Darkwa, was arrested by the police and remanded in prison custody for two weeks over comments he made on a radio station allegedly accusing Ghana’s former President Jerry John Rawlings of setting fire to burn his (Rawlings’s) own house.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has observed the rampant use of insulting and abusive language by individuals, political party functionaries and government officials in both the print and electronic media and we consider this inappropriate and unprofessional since the practice has the tendency to undermine responsible media freedom in particular and freedom of expression in general.
MFWA added its voice to the widespread condemnation of the police in this arrest and condemned the actions of the NDC youth who besieged the premises of the radio station.