The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today expressed grave concern after Ghana’s judicial services body demanded that media organizations take down any adverse comments made against Supreme Court judges amid an election case brought by the country’s former president.

On February 25, lawyers for the Judicial Services of Ghana warned media outlets to remove “hateful, spiteful, vengeful and incendiary” content as the Supreme Court hears a challenge by former President John Mahama, who was defeated by now-incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo in the December 2020 presidential elections.

“The instructions by the Judicial Services to media organizations ordering them to refrain from criticizing judges is a violation of press freedom”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “It is the function of the media to shine a light on the actions of different pillars of the government in any democracy. The instructions should be withdrawn, and the media should be allowed to express critical views.”

The Ghana Journalists Association, in a statement issued today, said that it was “dumbstruck in reading this obnoxious directive pregnant with insidious threats to media freedom in Ghana which is touted as a land of freedom and justice. With all due respect, this is scandalous.”

It added: “If not reversed immediately, the ill- advised , ill- timed, ill- crafted and ill- issued statement by the Judiciary can provoke a tsunamic backlash, lower the dignity of the court in the eyes of freedom lovers and critical citizens, pollute the media environment , undermine our impressive media rankings globally and dim the beacon of our democracy.”

According to president of the Ghana Journalists Association, Affail Monne, the instructions from the Judicial Services to media organizations appeared to be a preventive action against possible media criticism. “There has been a lot of criticism of the judiciary in the social media, but mass media has refrained from publishing stories and reports against the judges”, he told IPI.