The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns the serial threats on Emmanuel Akli, the Editor of The Chronicle, one of Ghana’s leading newspapers, by an immigration officer and urge the Ghana Police Service to act decisively on the issue.
A story in the November 24, 2020 edition of The Chronicle gave a detailed account of how one Isaac Dzihlornu, an officer of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) has since 2018 been issuing death threats against the paper’s editor over a publication about him.
According to the newspaper, Dzihlornu, who was stationed at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, went to court and obtained judgment after complaining about the said publication. The Court in its ruling had ordered the newspaper to publish an apology to the plaintiff. The Management of The Chronicle filed for a stay of execution of the ruling and subsequently began a process to file an appeal, whereupon the plaintiff became irritated and started hounding the Editor with threats.
“Don’t be happy because you succeeded in destroying someone’s life. A time will come for you to cry,” reads one of the threats by Dzihlornu sent to Akli via WhatsApp on November 18, 2018, according to the newspaper.
The Editor says that on January 16, 2019, the day investigative journalist Ahmed Suale was killed by unknown assailants in Accra, the Immigration officer sent him a video that was circulating on social media about how Suale was murdered with the threat; “it will happen soon.”
This threat was immediately reported to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Greater Accra.
Despite the threats being reported to the Police as far back as 2018, the police have failed to act, forcing the editor to petition the then Inspector General of Police David Asante Apeatu. Dzihlornu was invited to the Regional Police the CID over the threats which he denied in the presence of the petitioner, Akli. There has since been no word from the police after the interrogation ended with a decision that they were going to contact telecommunication company MTN to retrieve the messages Dzihlornu sent to Akli.
The Editor says the immigration officer has continued to issue threats against him, having apparently been encouraged by the lack of action by the police. The latest one sent via WhatsApp on November 20, 2020, read;
“This is my last message to you. If you don’t publish a retraction of the stupid and useless stories you publish about me in your newspaper latest by Thursday next week, then you will blame yourself forever. You are from Anlo and I am also from Anlo. My God in heaven will not count it as a sin for me because I have exercised enough patience. You can act on it or leave it. I will seek for justice with even my last blood. Mark it on the wall.”
Speaking to the MFWA, Akli said he has been utterly disappointed with the casual attitude of the police to what is obviously a serious threat on his life.
However, responding to the MFWA’s enquiry, Superintendent Sheilla Kessie Abayie-Buckman, Director of Public Affairs of the Ghana Police Service, said she has not been apprised of the matter but assured that the Police Service does not take lightly any threat against any person. The Police Spokesperson directed that the journalist should contact the Greater Accra Police Public Relations Officer, and assured that she will herself follow-up on the status of the investigations.
The MFWA shares in the editor’s frustration at the impunity with which Dzihlornu is acting and urges the Ghana Police Service to take immediate action to bring the perpetrator to book. Press freedom is the heartbeat of democracy, and so any attempt to intimidate the media is an attack on democracy and must be fought back in a robust manner.
Ghana is yet to unravel the murder of Ahmed Suale which, alongside other recent violations, has adversely affected Ghana’s press freedom ranking since the country came up tops in Africa in 2018.
Under the UN Action Plan to end Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, states are required not only to take steps to prevent press freedom violations but also to ensure that violations are investigated and the perpetrators punished. We therefore call on the police to respond to threats on The Chronicle Editor’s life with the seriousness that it deserves.