A journalist with the Daily Graphic, Ghana’s leading newspaper with nationwide circulation, has been sentenced to a fine of Ghc5,000 (about US$1,200) for publishing an interview judged to be contemptuous of a High Court in Accra.
The judge, who delivered the judgment on March 21, 2017, also convicted the former Chairman of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB), Akrasi Sarpong, who granted the interview, to two months’ suspended sentence.
In the said interview, Sarpong expressed concern about the High Court’s earlier decision to grant bail to two drug suspects. Sarpong described the court’s decision as unfortunate, given that the suspects, Chief Sunny Ikechukwu Benjy Eke and Eleke Chukwu, have allegedly jumped bail before in Brazil.
Eke and Chukwu were arrested and remanded in 2013 for allegedly attempting to smuggle from Bolivia to Ghana 281,604 grammes of liquid cocaine with a street value of over US$12.5 million.
Lawyers for the suspects filed a contempt suit against Sarpong and the reporter (whose name was not given), arguing that the publication was prejudicial to the case and contemptuous of the High Court.
The presiding judge, Justice Charles Edward Ekow Baiden, delivering his ruling, said Sarpong’s comments were meant to derogate the authority of the Court that granted bail to the suspects. The ex-NACOB boss was consequently sentenced to a suspended two months’ jail term with a bond to be of good behaviour, while the reporter was slapped with a fine of Ghc 5,000 or in default, serve a two months imprisonment.
While calling on journalists to exercise discretion in reporting on matters before the courts, the MFWA believes the fine imposed on the Graphic reporter is excessive. The MFWA therefore calls on the Court to be measured in their sentence so that it does not lead to self-censorship on the part of journalists and the media at large.