Shrinking civic space: Ghana downgraded from NARROWED to OBSTRUCTED
Source: CIVICUS Monitor
Ghana has been downgraded from ‘narrowed’ to ‘obstructed’ in a new report by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks fundamental freedoms in 197 countries and territories. The report, People Power Under Attack 2022, says attacks on journalists, the use of ‘false news’ regulations to detain journalists and the draconian anti-LGBTQI+ draft law have led to Ghana’s downgrade.
Long lauded as a regional champion for its respect of fundamental and democratic freedoms, this has been undermined the past few years. An ‘obstructed’ rating means civic freedoms, including the freedoms of expression, assembly and association, are now being routinely undermined in Ghana. Other obstructed countries include Sierra Leone, Liberia and Kenya.
Media freedom has been under increasing strain in Ghana. Attacks on journalists, including physical attacks and threats, have spiralled the past few years, while attacks against media outlets, in the form of break-ins, vandalisation of equipment and attempts to censor outlets, occur on a frequent basis. Additionally, several journalists and activists have been subjected to arrests, with an increasing use of ‘false news’ regulations under the Criminal Offences Act (Act 29 as amended) and the 2008 Electronic Communications Act (Act 775) by authorities, indicating an increasing intolerance of dissenting and critical voices by authorities. The deterioration of press freedom in Ghana is reflected in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, where Ghana’s rating dropped 30 places globally, and from the third place in Africa in 2021 to the 10th place in 2022.
The deterioration of press freedom in Ghana and impunity for press freedom violations, such as the failure to secure justice for the killing of investigative reporter has had a devastating effect on media and journalists, where self-censorship is increasingly used by journalists to avoid reprisals, threats, physical attacks and arrests.
The CIVICUS Monitor is concerned about the consideration of the draconian LGBTQI+ draft law, the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, introduced in 2021. The Bill prescribes fines, prison sentences and so-called ‘conversion practices’ for gender and sexual minorities, and will have far reaching consequences if adopted. It also criminalises LGBTQI+ advocacy and activism, with heavy prison sentences ranging from five to 10 years. The draft law has intensified an already hostile anti-LGBTQI+ climate, with human rights violations against LGBTQI+ people, including mob attacks, physical violence, online and verbal harassment and sexual violence, as a result.
Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor, providing evidence and research that help us target countries where civic freedoms are at risk. The Monitor has posted more than 490 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2022.
Civic freedoms in 197 countries and territories are categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology that combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.
Ghana is now rated ‘obstructed’ on the CIVICUS Monitor. There are 39 other countries with this rating (see all). Visit Ghana’s homepage on the CIVICUS Monitor for more information and check back regularly for the latest updates.