Ghana vows to crackdown on hate speech

By Dasmani Laary in Accra

Posted on Tuesday, 5 July 2016 13:29

Kennedy Ayapong, a Member of Parliament claimed Electoral Commission (EC) boss, Charlotte Osei was not selected on merit, remarks that have angered women’s groups who now want action to be taken against him.

The utterances tend to put fear in the judges and magistrates of Ghana

The Interior ministry on Monday said it was concerned about the rising number of cases where politicians and other activists used abusive language against opponents.

“Government expects the security agencies to take firm action against persons whose utterances and actions undermine the peace, security and stability of the state,” Interior minister Prosper Bani said in a statement.

“Government also notes the upsurge in inflammatory rhetoric against key managers of the electoral process calculated to compromise their independence and security and is taking further steps to improve their personal security.”

He said the security apparatus would not shirk their responsibility to safeguard peace and security of the country, and reminded media owners and journalists to work within the law.

Bani’s statement also followed remarks by two political commentators – Alistair Nelson, and Godwin Ako Gunn during a radio debate last month where they allegedly threatened to kill certain judges.

Ayapong from the opposition New Patriotic Party’s lawmaker last month told supporters in the second largest city of Kumasi that Osei allegedly gave sexual favours to bigwigs in government in exchange for her post.

The comments were described as offensive and embarrassing by women activities who petitioned Parliament in an effort to force him to apologise.

However, Ayapong has refused to retract the statement, vowing to reveal more about the EC’s boss’ private life.

“If a woman is misbehaving and you say it, they say because she is a woman, so we shouldn’t say it, is a woman not a human being?” he retorted.

“Nobody is saying anything, when I respond then you say that I have taken the law into my own hands, if they dare me, I will reveal more.”

The Federation of Gender and Development Network International, which petitioned Parliament over the remarks, said the lawmaker must be punished.

“We ultimately want the privileges committee of Parliament to investigate this dishonourable MP Kennedy Agyapong and find appropriate sanctions to stop his endless attack on women in this country,” the federation’s executive secretary Ajara Muhammed said.

“These comments seek to tarnish women integrity in society, they also discourage women from accepting national duties and taking part in decision making process for the development of our nation”.

Meanwhile, Ghana’s judges and magistrates said they feared for their lives after Nelson and Gunn allegedly said they would “finish” off Supreme Court and High Court judges if they ruled against the electoral body in an ongoing court case challenging the validity of the voters’ register.

The judges and magistrates told journalists on Monday that they were scared and feared for their lives following the threats on the eve of Martyr’s Day.

The day is set aside for remembering three Ghanaian judges – Fred Poku Sarkodee, Cecilia Koranteng-Addow and Kwadwo Agyei Agyepong who were murdered on 30 June 1982.

“The utterances tend to put fear in the judges and magistrates of Ghana who are vested with judicial under the constitution,” president of the association, Dennis Adjei said.

The Ghana Journalists Association also condemned the comments saying: “We find such intimidation of the judiciary who are the final arbiters of justice totally unacceptable.”

The Media Commission and Communication Authority was urged to ere to do thorough investigations and “ensure that the law takes its course se to serve as a deterrent to persons contemplating such undemocratic practices and irresponsible behaviour, especially this election year.”

Ghana would hold presidential and parliamentary elections later this year.

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