As of December 31, 1998

As Ghanaians look optimistically toward the presidential elections scheduled for 2000 – hoping to avoid the devastating political crises and civil wars plaguing the West Africa sub-region – President Jerry Rawlings has endorsed Vice President John Atta Mills for the candidacy of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC). The NDC has the advantage of campaigning with the full support of state media, which rarely air or publish opposition viewpoints or critical reporting on the government, and reach far more of the population than the country's independent radio stations. Nevertheless, Ghana's vibrant private press is expected to continue to cover the full range of issues and views in the run-up to the election.

Although the December 1996 vote was considered free and fair by international observers, the cornerstones of an open society remain shaky. Government harassment in the form of arrests and protracted legal battles continue to frustrate the independent press's efforts to report on such subjects as corruption and economic issues including the privatization of public industries and international investment in the country. Political prisoners languish behind bars, and the judiciary is less than independent, especially in media-related cases. Although the constitution guarantees free expression, the courts continue to enforce criminal defamation laws – some dating back to the colonial era – that punish reporting deemed likely "to injure the reputation of Ghana."

On July 23, the Court of Appeal sentenced two newspaper editors – Haruna Atta of The Weekend Statesman, and Kweku Baako, Jr., of The Guide to one-month prison terms for contempt of court, and the journalists' publishers were fined US$3,000 each, in a lawsuit brought by First Lady Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings in 1997. She had sued the two journalists and their publications for stories about her sister joining the opposition New Patriotic Party.

Attacks on the Press in Ghana in 1998

7/27/98Ebenezer Ato Sam, Free PressImprisoned, Legal Action
7/27/98Tommy Thompson Publications LtdLegal Action
7/23/98Haruna Atta, The Weekend StatesmanImprisoned, Legal Action
7/23/98Kweku Baako, Jr., The GuideImprisoned, Legal Action
7/23/98Kinesic PublicationsLegal Action
7/23/98Western PublicationsLegal Action
5/29/98Bunmi Aborisade, The IndependentHarassed
5/29/98Lewis Asubiojo, The IndependentHarassed
1/19/98Kweku Baako, Jr., The GuideHarassed

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