Mr Joojo Cobbinah, a Ghanaian alumnus of the Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA) masters’ programme (2013) was arrested on Saturday, 6th September 2014 on the orders of the Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), also known as the Mayor of Accra.
Mr Cobbinah (the 2011 Human Rights Defender Award recipient and 2009 GJA Best Health Reporter) who is a journalist and a producer with Multi TV had gone with a team to film the living conditions of the people of Mensah Guinea community. This was after the AMA had demolished their houses upon a three days notice, rendering them homeless. As a result some of those displaced including women and children, slept in the open for lack of alternative housing arrangements.
Whilst Mr Cobbinah and his team interacted with the displaced people to inquire of their state, the police arrived at the scene with orders from the Mayor of Accra to arrest Mr Cobbinah and his team. The police first arrested the driver who drove Mr Cobbinah and his team to the community; and while the team was at the police station to arrange for the bail of the driver, Mr Cobbinah was also arrested and kept in police custody for three hours.
According to the Mayor of Accra, Mr Cobbinah and his team had instructed the displaced residents to lie on the ground in batches in order to be filmed. By that act, the journalists intended to dent the image of the government and displayed a lack of professionalism. Mr Cobbinah has been charged with ‘offensive conduct’ and has been granted bail to appear before court by next week.
The action of the Mayor of Accra is an attempt to censor the media and stifle the right to information which International Human Rights Law as well as the 1992 Constitution of Ghana guarantees. The Mayor of Accra is therefore requested to drop all charges against Mr Cobbinah.
This incident adds to the increasing attacks on journalists in Ghana; the most recent one occurring on Thursday, 11th September 2014, when a female editor and two reporters were assaulted by staff of the National Health Insurance Authority. On 5th September 2014, a reporter with the Daily Graphic newspaper was assaulted by a group of people allegedly linked to Mr Asamoah Gyan, the captain of the Black Stars. The assault was reported to have occurred shortly after the journalist asked a question at a press conference organised by the Ghana Football Association ahead of the Ghana-Uganda AFCON qualifier at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi.
Twitter hashtags: #offensiveconduct #pressfreedom #pressfreedomGH