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Opinions of Thursday, 1 September 2005

Columnist: Afrani, Kwabena

RE: Abuse of Power

The report that a Chronicle reporter was arrested in Obuasi and detained for allegedly writing a defamatory article against the MP in the area, is disturbing. This incident is not an isolated one. Readers may recall that similar incident happened in the Central Region also involving a public official.

Where is Ghana heading to as a democracy?

Imagine how frightening it was for the reporter. Anyone could be in mufti and pick up someone in a private car, reminiscence of the abduction of the judges and countless others during the dark days. In this case at least the reporter knew whom the car belonged to.

Let not Ghana go back to the PNDC/NDC days. Those in power should know how to use power invested in them judiciously. In a true democracy no one is above the law. All are equal in the eyes of the law. In a defamatory issue the 'offender' is not arrested. The complainant files suit in court of law for redress but not vigilantism.

Gone should be the days when some soldiers and policemen allowed themselves to be used by some unscrupulous people to settle personal vendetta and as debt collectors.

The Police Department knows what constitutes criminal activity that demands an arrest. It uses discretion in many instances. It has code of practice and it has to advise the complainant his/her rights under the law. Public officials should not be law unto themselves. Any criminal activity demands urgent attention and action by the police, but not defamation of character. How many times, haven't the President been written and talked about in the negative? But he hasn't caused the arrest of anybody. Leaders ought to be tolerant and exercise restraint. There is need for checks and balances. As the adage goes: A person making a path is not aware how crooked the part of the path behind him is, until he is made aware of. You are in the public eye and should prepare for criticism. Nobody is infallible.

In the same token I am not condoning journalists who misuse the power of the pen to defame public officials and others unduly. But when it happens there is an avenue for redress.



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