Two Ghanaian journalists are under investigation by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in that country, and have been charged with spreading “false information with the aim to cause public fear and panic” under Ghana’s 1960 Criminal Code.

Joy FM editor Ato Kwamena Dadzie was charged on 15 July 2010 with publishing false information, following interrogation by the CID, according to a report from the Media Foundation for West Africa.

Ten days earlier, Dadzie’s radio station reported that a real estate developer’s association had withdrawn its parliamentary petition against a controversial housing deal as a result of death threats and bribes, according to news reports. Local news media also have reported that Dadzie was charged after refusing to reveal his sources to the police.

The Ghana Journalists Association met with Minister of Information John Tia Akologu yesterday to ask his help in convincing the public prosecutor that such charges undermine press freedom in Ghana, according to local news reports. Police, however, claim that their investigation of Dadzie is motivated by their desire to protect the individuals who, according to Joy FM, received death threats, reports say.

On 21 July, Ghanaian Times editor Emilion Ashon was also called in for questioning by the CID, which is charging his paper with spreading false information. The charges stem from a report whose headline indicated that armed robbers were staying in a decaying building complex that had been intended for use as an office and living space for the Swedru town police. Reports say Ashon is now in the process of being charged.

“IPI is concerned about the use of criminal charges against the editors of Joy FM and the Ghanaian Times for their reporting,” said IPI Director David Dadge. “Further, the police should recognize that source confidentiality is fundamental to the practice of journalism. If the police believe that a story is inaccurate, they should write to the editor to seek a correction, and failing that, take their case through the Media Commission.”

In November 2009 and March 2010, IPI wrote letters to Ghana President Atta Mills asking that his government ensure that police and political party attacks on journalists are investigated and prosecuted. Although such attacks have continued, the President’s office has yet to respond in full to either of IPI’s letters.