The High Court – Human Rights Division – has ordered former Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to render an apology to two Multimedia journalists.
The court, presided over by Justice Anthony K. Yeboah found the AMA under Alfred Oko Vanderpuije and police unlawfully interfered with and violated the rights of Solomon Joojo Cobbinah, Festus Jackson Davies and a driver of the company Felix Akunor to do their constitutionally guaranteed duties as journalists.
The former mayor, the AMA and the IGP were jointly sued in 2015 for attempting to arrest the reporters and arresting and detaining the driver for filming the aftermath of the demolition of Mensa Guinea in September 2014.
The AMA flattened mostly wooden structures that served as homes to some three hundred inhabitants of Mensa Guinea located behind the Arts Centre near the sea.
The victims complained of unfair treatment accusing Mr Vanderpuije of dangerously exposing women and children to the vagaries of the weather especially the cold sea waves while the girls were exposed to rape among other criminal and anti-social acts.
Mr Vanderpuije called police on the reporters who were filming the homeless nightlife of the victims after the demolition, accusing them of fabricating a story to embarrass and cause disaffection for government.
But the court held that “there was no legal or objectively reasonable justification for the suspicion that the reporters were committing an offence or were attempting to do so.”
It declared that Mr Vanderpuije and his collaborator’s action was a “wrongful and unlawful…interference with the reporters’ right to personal liberty, freedom of expression, right to information and right to enjoyment of the independence of the media.”
It has, therefore, ordered the incumbent Coordinating Director of the AMA and the IGP to render separate apologies to the reporters within seven days and have their apologies published in the Daily Graphic newspaper to be given “special prominence.”
The court awarded a cost of GHC5000 saying the apology, like a rejoinder, should take the place of damages.
Lawyer for the reporters, Samson Lardy Anyenini, says the judge was thorough and clear with his judgment and that this was yet another victory against abuse of journalists coming in the wake of a similar recent emphatic judicial vindication of responsible journalism in the Afia Pokua case against the NHIS.