The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) has warned agents of the Akufo Addo administration and the security services to drop the curious charges slapped on David Sitsope Tamakloe, the Editor-In-Chief of Whatsup News, Ghana’s premier virtual newspaper.
This call is coming when CPJ placed a call through to Nana Oguahyia Oduro-Panin Birikorang, the New Edubiase traditional leader who supposedly filed a complaint against Whatsup News for a supposed “fake news”.
CPJ in a statement released on Friday, October 16, 2020, reported that Nana Oguahyia Oduro-Panin Birikorang told them on the phone that he never filed any case against Mr. Tamakloe but that following the story about natives in New Edubiase hounding Ewes and Northerners which was reported by WhatsUp News, he called some political and security leaders of the town to investigate its veracity.
“Birirkorang told CPJ by phone that he did not file a complaint against Tamakloe, but said he had called a group of leaders in the region, including political and security officials, to ask for an investigation into the July 8 report,” the CPJ stated in a 16th October report.
This means that the case against Mr. Tamakloe does not really have a complainant as the security agencies who forcefully kidnapped the New Editor would want the public to believe.
The CPJ which is headquartered in New York, USA, also reported that Kessie Abayie-Buckman, spokesperson of the Ghana Police Service, who said Mr. Tamakloe was arrested on charges of publishing false news could not state the source of the allegations against Mr. Tamakloe.
She however told the Committee that the case is now with the Attorney General and that she will decide what to do with it.
“Authorities in Ghana should ensure that the criminal charge against journalist David Tamakloe is dropped and that he is permitted to work freely,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa Program’s coordinator, from New York. “Ghana’s police have a pattern of trying to intimidate journalists, which must end,” she added.
Mr. Tamakloe, who is represented by Lawyer David Annan, returns to court on the 22nd of October.
He was arrested on October 7, 2020, Rambo-styled near his office by plainclothes Police officers who handcuffed him like a common criminal and drove him for over seven hours straight to New Edubiase in the Ashanti Region and put him in custody on allegations that he had published false news.
However, the said story was a report based on a press conference by the opposition National Democratic Congress.
It concerned the hounding of Ewes and people of Northern extraction by natives of New Edubiase during the ethnocentrism themed voter registration by the Electoral Commission in which the Akufo-Addo government especially targeted Ewes around the country.
According to Mr. Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, the NDC’s Director of Elections, the NDC had received reports of NPP supporters and members, who are natives of New Edubiase, telling Ewes and Northerners to leave their lands and go and register elsewhere.
After the press conference, WhatsUp News had seen videos of people said to be Ashanti natives of New Edubiase shouting obscenities at people said to be Ewes and Northerners amidst threats that they were not welcome to register as voters in New Edubiase, part of the traditional stronghold of the governing NPP.
Whatsup News did the story, which was just one of several that had been done regarding ethnocentric targeting of Ewes in particular in Akan areas, including the Eastern Region where a Deputy Minister of Finance reportedly went around seizing the voters’ ID cards of Ewes and branding them as foreigners.
A few days after the publication, the Police in New Edubiase arrested a reader of the digital newspaper, one Mr. Konu, and accused him of sharing false news. Mr. Konu got in touch with WhatsUp News and Mr. Tamakloe informed the Police that the story was from a press conference by the NDC.
It was while Mr. Tamakloe was under the impression that the issue had been resolved that the New Edubiase Police arrested him near his office in early October as if he was a criminal.
The Police had created the impression that the traditional leader of New Edubiase was the complainant in the case but as it turns out, Nana Oguahyia Oduro-Panin Birikorang did not report any case to the Police.