Will Akufo-Addo’s Government Jail Journalists Over LGBT Reportage?4 min read
Each day, the clock ticks down to the resumption of Ghana’s Parliament from recess to pass a new law which shall not only criminalize all forms of LGBT activities in the country but would in addition, throw into jail journalists and media owners who publish pro-LGBT news and persons found to be allies of same-sex relationships.
Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo has remained rather unclear on his exact stance on the Bill and has equally fallen short of coming clear whether or not he would assent his signature to the Bill to finalize its passage into law for it to be Gazetted.
Recently, when the United States Vice President Kamala Harris visited Ghana and the question of whether the country has laws that criminalize sexual rights came up, what Nana Akufo-Addo said was “We don’t have any such legislation here in Ghana”. He was right but he did not add that Parliament is indeed armed to the teeth and ready to pass such a law without any form of restraint.
The President did not add that the said law, when passed would not only target the LGBT community but would jail media owners and journalists who speak in favour of LGBT persons. He did not add that even property owners who rent out their facilities to LGBT persons and their allies risk jail terms.
The President ‘sweet-talked’ Kamala Harris and the international media without making clear in direct and simple language about the actual practical situation in Ghana.
Nana Akufo-Addo simply said it was “a private Member’s Bill this is not an official legislation of the Government but it is one that has been mooted by a handful of private Members,”, but the President did not tell Kamala Harris that the “private Members” pushing for the passage of the Bill include key appointees of his Government plus Members of Parliament from his party and that his Government has not distanced itself from the said appointees.
Nana Akufo-Addo’s ambiguity is understandable. He is a globally renowned Human Rights lawyer who does not lack an appreciation of the current globally accepted definition and standards of human rights. In his home country Ghana, Akufo-Addo has been celebrated for being the brainchild behind the brilliant landmark abolishment of the criminal libel and sedition laws which was used to incarcerate journalists over their editorial stance once upon a time in Ghana.
The Bill, mostly known as the anti-LGBT Bill, currently before Ghana’s Parliament, is a rather popular one as Ghanaians by their customs, traditions and values, do not countenance homosexual activities.
A key factor that has enhanced public support for the anti-LGBT Bill, officially known as the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights And Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021, is the fact that though Ghana is a secular state by law, an overwhelming majority of its citizens are either Christians or Muslims, two religions which abhor same-sex relationships.
Even the Traditional African Religion sects, which constitute a negligible minority of the population, do not support anything LGBT.
The President is in an apparent dilemma on how to respect the feelings of a majority of his people and still remain sensitive to Human Rights issues.
Would Nana Akufo-Addo’s name go down in history as the Ghanaian President whose signature passed a law that jails journalists over what they write about sexual rights in the year 2023? That would be injurious to his loudly trumpeted Human Rights records of global repute.
A media house’s published opinion on sexual preference does not in any way impose that opinion on another person. This aspect of the Bill is a clear direct threat to press freedoms and is unconstitutional. It amounts to media censorship. It suppresses press freedoms. It puts fear in journalists and forbids them from freely expressing their opinions for fear of being jailed. That is the road on which the Government of Nana Akufo-Addo seems ready to drive.
To add salt to injury, the anti-LGBT Bill has taken a partisan political twist and any politician perceived to be speaking against its passage would be coming to a political suicide; no wonder none of the 275 Members of Parliament had the nerves to speak against it when the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Alban Bagbin granted that open opportunity.
A spin has been deliberately put on the interpretation of the Bill to misinform the public that opposing the Bill means supporting LGBT activities. A spin that has worked public emotions against opponents of the Bill and cowed them into docility
Many Ghanaians have been hoodwinked into believing that there is an attempt by some persons, mostly of foreign origins, to legalize same-sex marriages in Ghana and the anti-LGBT Bill is the antidote to that attempt.
In reality, the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights And Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021, only seeks to criminalize same-sex activities and jail its proponents whether or not they are consenting adults who hide in the closet. It further seeks to jail persons who even rent their facilities to LGBT persons, and journalists who speak on their behalf.
Meanwhile, Ghana already has laws that give protection against any form of non-consensual sex and prescribe jail terms for offenders.
The country already has laws which forbid unnatural canal knowledge or any form of sexual activity involving minors and sex that is not held in private.