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Opinions of Saturday, 6 August 2011

Columnist: Akoto, Akwasi A. Afrifa

Drugs And The Repeal Of Criminal And Seditious Libel Laws

This Month officially marks the 10th anniversary of the repeal of Criminal and Seditious Libel laws. The repeal, in effect, freed media practitioners from being prosecuted for publishing "falsehood" injurious to the government, President or a public official etc. (Technically, the vote took place on July 27, 2001)

Although Articles 21and 162 of the 1992 Constitution had granted free speech and protection for the media to express its opinions, the then P-ndc government had been using the Criminal libel laws to by pass the Constitution in order to continue its tactics of harassments, a carry over from the quasi-revolutionary days. (The P-ndc is currently using the Civil Libel Law, the "cousin" of the Criminal Libel Law to harass citizens - High priest, Adarkwa, John Kumah etc)

Interestingly, the case that would eventually throw a broader light on the abuse of the libel law by the P-ndc would turned out be a drug a case. It is interesting because history making the rounds these days has it that it is rather the NPP administration that introduced big time drug dealing in to our country.

In 1996, the African Observer, a U.S based publication, ran a story about how the P-ndc party/government's campaigns' were being financed by drug money. And that the P-ndc was using the diplomatic corps as carriers and our embassies abroad as distributing centers. The African Observer published the story after a Ghanaian diplomat had been busted in Switzerland for drugs and had been extradited to face trial.

In Ghana, the Ghanaian Chronicle republished the story and the paper was, consequently, charged with felony under the Criminal Libel law for printing "falsehood." The Free Press Newspaper would also be charged under the libel law for a story indicting the former first lady, the PNDC Chairman's wife, for allegedly peddling drugs. Allegedly?

Ultimately, the, NPP, in 2001, would fulfill its manifesto promise and repeal the Criminal and Seditious Libel Laws; perhaps the most authoritarian and repressive instrument then left on our books and had been on the books since 1960 when the Grandfather of African Dictatorship himself, Kwame Nkrumah reintroduced the law.

Ten years after the repeal, our democracy has deepened as a result. But the case that brought international attention to the abuse of the Libel Law by the P-ndc seems to have been forgotten by Ghanaians.

Ghanaians seem to have forgotten that long before the NPP came on the scene, the P-ndc was already knee deep in the drug trade. We seem to have forgotten that the P-ndc had had diplomats already caught with drugs and that our former first lady
- future presidential candidate- had even been suspected of being a drug peddler.....long before the NPP came on the scene......long before the current Narcotics Control Board (NACOB)boss, Akrasie Sarpong warned against the use of drugs in campaigns.

Yet due to revisionist history, -or to the laziness of NPP historians and strategists-it is now the NPP who are being accused of turning the former Gold Coast into a drug coast. But Ghanaians must remember that anytime they celebrate the repeal of the Criminal and Seditious Libel Laws, they are also celebrating the days when brave journalists took grave risks in order to alert the country of the drug dealing by the P-ndc government.

And because of the connection between the repeal of the libel law and the African Observer's publication, the P-ndc, as the originators of government's employees serving as drug mules will always remain a historical fact......buttressed by a presidential confession - wiki leaks - bemoaning the fact that less than six months into his administration, his staff had already been compromised, narcotically.
Akwasi. A Afrifa Akoto.