The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is deeply concerned about the remand for two weeks of Noah Dameh, who is accused of defaming Ghanaian businessman Daniel McKorley, and urges Ghana’s Attorney General to intervene to end the persecution of the journalist.
Dameh, the Deputy Station Coordinator of Radio Ada, a community radio based in Ada in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, was remanded in custody on March 30, until April 13, 2023, after he appeared before the Magistrate Court in Tema.
The case began in May 2022 when Dameh was summoned and briefly detained by the Police following a complaint by Daniel McKorley (alias McDan) the founder of Electrochem Ghana, a salt factory at Ada Songor. The complaint was in connection with the journalist’s Facebook post in which he accused the police of abusing a young man from Ada at the instance of McKorley.
After a series of police summons and court appearances, Dameh thought he had regained his freedom when the court finally dismissed the case in December 2022 for lack of jurisdiction. However, it was not to be, as the police pounced on him and arrested him immediately he got out of the courtroom.
They made him write a statement and granted bail with a surety, only to call the case three times without notifying the defense. The investigator later went to swear an affidavit to tell the court that my surety has failed the bond to produce him.
“Apparently, they had appeared before the court three times. The difficulty here is that we had no notification of this second suit because if we had, we would have appeared in court, as we’ve done in the earlier suit,” Dameh’s lawyer told the Fourth Estate, the MFWA’s online newspaper.
This time around, the prosecution served notice to the surety ordering him to produce the journalist in court on March 30, 2023. When the journalist appeared, he was charged with false publication under section 208 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), and remanded until April 13, 2023.
EletroChem Ghana Limited has acquired a large salt mining concession in Songhor lagoon in Ada, and has since been embroiled in a conflict with the youth of the town, who accuse the company of snatching their livelihood. Radio Ada, where Noah Dameh works, has been running a programme dubbed Manor Munyu which is dedicated to the salt industry with particular focus on the plight of the artisanal miners affected by ELectroChem’s monopoly. The station has been harassed many times over this programme.
On April 27, 2021, the station received a letter from lawyers of Electrochem Ghana Limited (EGL), instructing them to retract and apologise for some statements made on its programme. The station stood its ground and rejected the request. It received a series of anonymous threats afterwards.
On January 13, 2022, about a dozen thugs stormed the premises of the community radio station, assaulted two of its journalists and vandalised their studio equipment. The station shut down after the attack for almost two weeks. A statement by the management of the station said “The attackers openly declared that they had come to vandalise the station because of its ‘Manor Munyu’ and other programmes discussing the recent developments in Songhor.”
On May 8, 2022 Dameh posted on his Facebook wall a picture of one Benjamin Anim, a native of Ada who was handcuffed to a hospital bed. In the accompanying write-up the broadcast journalist claimed that Anim was arrested by the police and abused. He suggested that the young man’s arrest was at the instance of Daniel McKorley, Chief Executive of ElectroChem Ghana Limited.
On May 14, 2022, Dameh received a text message to report at the Tema Regional Police Command and assist in investigations into his Facebook allegations. On May 16, 2022, he honoured the invitation by reporting to Sgt Derrick Debrah who informed him that the police had received a defamation complaint from ElectroChem Ghana Limited in connection with the said Facebook post.
Dameh’s lawyer, Martin Owusu, told the MFWA that although his client’s Facebook post mentioned McDan’s name, it did not mention EletroChem Limited. He, therefore, found it strange that his client is being harassed on the basis of a complaint from the company. The lawyer also wondered why the company decided to use the police rather than file a civil suit.
Meanwhile, the journalist received another summon to report to the Police, which he honoured on May 20. Dame was arraigned by Tema Police Command on May 24, 2022, and granted bail the same day. The Greater Accra Region Police also put him before court on August 22, 2022, and he was granted bail. As part of bail conditions by the Tema Magistrate Court, the journalist had to report to the police every other Tuesday.
The court finally dismissed the case in December 2022 for lack of jurisdiction, only for the police to re-arrest Dameh and restart the process, leading to the journalist’s detention on March 30.
The MFWA is intrigued by the evolution of this case from a defamation complaint, which should have been a civil matter, to criminal prosecution for alleged false publication. We are also intrigued by the Police’s apparent lack of interest in pursuing those who allegedly perpetrated the gross human rights violation of chaining a patient to a hospital bed, as opposed to the cast-iron determination to prosecute the whistleblower.
In view of this, we call on the Attorney General to intervene to ensure that the journalist is not made a scape goat and that justice is served for all persons involved in this matter.