STATEMENT: iWatch Africa petitions Police CID over individuals who threatened journalists online

Countering online abuse

iWatch Africa has officially submitted a complaint against three individuals who consistently threatened journalists; Manasseh Azure Awuni and Afia Pokua online to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police in Accra for further investigation.

The petition which details the nefarious online activities of these individuals was presented to the Director-General of the Police CID, COP Isaac Ken Yeboah, on Friday, 22nd May 2020 at the Police Headquarters in Accra. This petition is a result of several months of monitoring of online abuse of journalists and rights activists in Ghana under iWatch Africa’s broader effort of eliminating cyber-abuse in Ghana.

iWatch Africa’s online monitoring team has uncovered circa 600 separate instances of abuse and harassment during the first quarter of this year. The collected information was subsequently analyzed by the iWatch’s digital rights desk to form the base of this petition.

Abuse of journalists and rights activists within the digital ecosystem in Ghana is increasing, a phenomenon, experts say could have a profound “chilling effect” on journalism and can ultimately impact negatively on the tenets of a democratic society and press freedom.

Among the crucial issues raised in the petition are the continuous death, physical harm and rape threats, both journalists received from their abusers. We are of the view that the individuals captured in the petition to the Police CID violated the Criminal Code, 1960 (ACT 29) Section 17—regarding provisions relating to the use of threats in Ghana and must be made to face the laws of this country squarely for their unprovoked actions.

The names of the abusers are withheld due to the ongoing investigations into the case by the Police CID. iWatch Africa reiterates its readiness to assist the police in all their investigations into the matter. We believe that there is an urgent need to sanitize our cyber-ecosystem free from people who hide under anonymity and abuse innocent citizens.

iWatch Africa remains committed to evolving useful guidelines to help in the management of Ghana’s cyberspace. The guidelines we anticipate would help formalize the reporting of online abuse against journalists and rights activists; as well as community management and content forum moderation.

Journalists and rights activists play an essential role in deepening Ghana’s democracy, and we must all play our role in protecting them.

Signed,

Gideon Sarpong,

Director, iWatch Africa,

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Gideon Sarpong

Gideon Sarpong is a policy analyst and media practitioner with over eight years of experience in policy, data and investigative journalism. Gideon is currently the Policy and News Director at iWatch Africa. His major role includes developing news strategy for correspondents across Ghana, as well as designing strategic project and policy focus for the organisation. He is an author; a fellow of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Thomson Reuters Foundation, Commonwealth Youth Program ,Free Press Unlimited and Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative. Gideon holds a degree in economics from the University of Cape Coast, a PgD in Fiscal Policy for financing sustainable development from the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning, in South Africa and a PgD in Policy Journalism and Media Studies from the University of Zambia. He is the founder and country president of SOA Ghana Hub. Gideon is a Policy Leader Fellow at the European University Institute, School of Trans-national Governance in Florence.

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