8 November 2000

Ghana: Three Media Personalities Arrested


Toronto — The following document was released by the West African Journalists' Association (WAJA), Accra:

On Monday 6 November 2000, the publisher and editor of the private newspaper "Ghanaian Chronicle", Nana Kofi Coomson, was arrested by officers of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), for having in his possession diskettes taken from the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Accra.

Kofi Coomson was picked up at his office by armed security personnel who demanded and were given five diskettes that they said were stolen from the NDC. They then sent him to the BNI Accra regional headquarters, where he was kept for about seven hours. He was later released on a 5-million cedi (approx. US$722) bail. Also arrested was Kwesi Koomson, a former editor of the "Business Chronicle". Reports say that the two were denied food and water for the period that they stayed in captivity.

George Paa Graham, the man alleged to have given the diskettes to the "Ghanaian Chronicle", has been remanded in custody by an Accra Circuit Tribunal.

While the newspaper says it received the diskettes as part of its legitimate business of gathering information, the authorities have accused the newspaper of purchasing stolen items.

In a related development, Felix Odartey-Wellington, a media critic on Ghana Television (GTV), the national television network, has also been arrested by personnel of the BNI for alleged libelous statements against President Jerry John Rawlings.

He was arrested at the BNI headquarters, where he had been invited by an officer of the security agency who said his boss wanted to see Odartey- Wellington.

Reports say Odartey-Wellington was put in chains and driven to the police headquarters to be interrogated. He was informed at police headquarters that he was being investigated for describing the president as a "con man" and fraudulent in politics.

Odartey-Wellington, who is the son of one of the officers killed when President Rawlings first came to power in 1979, was granted a police inquiry bail of 50 million cedis (approx. US$7,223).

For further information, contact Kabral Blay-Amihere at WAJA, International Press Centre, Accra, Ghana or PO Box 4031, tel: +233 21 234692/27558765, fax: +233 21 234694/772990, e-mail: waja@africaonline.com.gh, Internet: http://www.webstar.com.gh/waja

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of WAJA. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit WAJA.

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