A court reporter of TV3 Network, Mr Godfred Tanam, was yesterday arrested for taking a video of the suspected Kwabenya police cell escapees on the premises of the Accra Circuit Court.
The incident which attracted many visitors who were at the court happened right after the court proceedings.
Tanam was arrested by the police officers escorting the accused persons back to police custody and was sent to the Accra Regional Police Command.
However, as of the time of filing this report, the police had released Mr Tanam without any charges.
How it happened
Mr Tanam and other journalists have been covering the trial of the cell breakers and their suspected accomplices since they were put before the Accra Circuit Court in February this year.
As has always been the practice, the journalists normally take pictures or videos of the accused persons outside the courtroom.
After yesterday’s hearing, however, the police officers questioned Mr Tanam for taking a video of the accused persons, to which Mr Tanam answered that he was a journalist.
The police officers demanded his ID card, but the journalist told them that he did not take his ID card with him.
They then arrested Mr Tanam and also seized his phone despite many protests from him and other journalists who were present.
Mr Tanam kept telling the police to give him back his phone so that he would call TV3 for his bosses to confirm that he was indeed a journalist, but all fell on deaf ears.
One of the officers told the journalist to keep quiet because whatever he said would be used against him in a law court.
He was then bundled into a police vehicle with the accused persons and sent to the Regional Police Command amid cheers from the accused persons and their sympathisers.
Judicial Press Corps
Yesterday’s incident was not the first time court correspondents had faced challenges in their quest to get stories from the courtroom.
Last year, a magistrate hearing the case of the two men connected to the death of the former Member of Parliament (MP) of Abuakwa-North, Mr J.B Danquah-Adu, sacked all journalists from her courtroom.
The arrest of Tanam has angered the Judicial Press Corps, which has been complaining about the harassment journalists face from some police officers and court officials on court premises.
The Dean of the Judicial Press Corps, Mr Wilberforce Asare, condemned the arrest of Mr Tanam, describing it as an affront to press freedom.
According to him, Mr Tanam should not have been arrested for taking a video of the accused persons outside the courtroom because it was within the remit of the law.
“We don’t use our cameras in the courtroom because it is against the law. So why should a journalist be arrested even after respecting the law? We condemn the arrest completely,’’ he said.
He further called on the police administration to institute full-scale investigations into the circumstances that led to the arrest of Mr Tanam.
Meanwhile, the court will deliver its judgement on the Kwabenya Police Station cell breakers on May 15, 2018.
The court fixed the date yesterday after the prosecution brought its case to a close.
Lawyers for the accused persons have decided to file a submission of no case as the defence for their clients.
The court, presided over by Mr Aboagye Tandoh, has, therefore, given the legal team of the accused persons up to May 9, 2018 to file the submission of no case.
On January 21, 2018, seven inmates at the Kwabenya Police Station cell escaped from custody through a cell break carried out by six armed men.
The cell break led to the death of a police officer at the station, Inspector Emmanuel Ashilevi.
The court has already sentenced four of the escapees – Kofi Darko, 25, Emmanuel Kotey, Prince Osei and Atta Kwadwo – to a total of 126 months imprisonment after they pleaded guilty for escaping from unlawful custody.
However three of the escapees – Chibuzor Akwubu, Rockson Edem Dzigbede and Dickson Ofori – are still on the run.
Nine other individuals alleged to have aided the inmates to escape have pleaded not guilty to the abetment of crime to escape from lawful custody.
They are Prince Kofi Acheampong, Nancy Dentaa (a bread seller), George Yeboah, Edward Lartey, Kofi Seshie, George Sarbah, Elvis Owusu, George Asante and Theophilus Bandah.