February 7, 2000
His Excellency Jerry Rawlings
President of the Republic of Ghana
PO Box 1627, Accra
BY FAX: (233) 21 664 089
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wishes to protest in the strongest terms the ongoing harassment of Kabral Blay-Amihere, president of the West African Journalists’ Association and editor of The Independent newspaper.
Blay-Amihere was first arrested by armed soldiers on January 13. The soldiers intercepted Blay-Amihere’s car while he was driving in the capital, Accra, and then drove him to a military base where he was held among criminals. He was interrogated about an editorial he had written in The Independent, in which he called for a boycott of the traditional December 31 military parade, describing it as a relic from the days when the army controlled all state agencies and affairs in Ghana.
No official charges were pressed against Blay-Amihere, who was released some twenty-four hours later. He was however compelled to publish a statement in The Independent, prepared by the army. In the statement, he apologized for his “irresponsible” view of the December 31 military parade.
On February 3, Blay-Amihere was summoned to the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ghana Police, where police told the editor they were investigating him for possible sedition charges in connection with the same article. Blay-Amihere was released after being interrogated for several hours. Under Ghana’s 1960 Criminal Code, any person found guilty of sedition faces a minimum prison sentence of five years.
CPJ is deeply troubled by the treatment of Blay-Amihere, which is in clear breach of his rights as a journalist. Under Ghana’s 1992 Constitution, complaints against the media should be dealt with by the non-governmental National Media Commission, and it is only in exceptional cases that the police may take action directly against the media. The treatment of Blay-Amihere appears to be wholly unjustified under the law.
As a non-partisan organization dedicated to the defense of press freedom worldwide, CPJ strongly urges Your Excellency to ensure that the harassment and intimidation of Blay-Amihere cease immediately, and furthermore that all journalists in Ghana are free to practice their profession without fear of reprisal.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter, and would welcome your comments.
Ann K. Cooper