Justin Pwavra Teriwajah

Private Legal Practitioner, Justin Pwavra Teriwajah has said that Sections 207 and 208 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), should not be misconstrued as the creeping back into the country’s jurisprudence, by the repealed Criminal Libel Law.

According to him, Sections 207 and 208, and the criminal libel law are very much different in terms of purpose and application.

Speaking on JoyNews’ The Law, he noted that whereas the Criminal Libel Law was purposely meant to protect public office holders from libel and defamatory comments, Sections 207 and 208 applies to all and sundry.

He said, “The repealed provisions clearly concerned libel, and I can read the definition of defamatory matter in Section 114, Sub-section 1 of the repealed provision, it says a matter is defamatory which impugns to a person, any crime or misconduct in any public office, or which is likely to injure him in his occupation, calling or office, or to expose him to general hatred, contempt or ridicule.”

Citing a decided case, he added, “So even in that particular case of the Republic vs Thompson Books limited, the issue was Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings was the first lady back then, and there was a defamatory matter published against her for which reason the Thompson Books Limited among others were being prosecuted. Now the matter went to Supreme Court and the issue was whether Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings qualified as a public officer.”

According to him, should the Criminal Libel Law still be in force now, it would most likely be used to protect the President, but Sections 207 and 208 can be used to protect the ordinary Ghanaian.

“So when you look at it clearly, the Criminal Libel Law had a particular objective and focus, which is clearly missing in Sections 207 and 208. Now the President as we speak today, is the number one public officer, so if the Criminal Libel Law were still in force, then clearly, that could have been used to protect him.

“But the provisions that we are talking about today, Sections 207 and 208, there is no requirement of protection of a public officer from being defamed. So in the first place clearly, when you compare the two, there is a very clear difference.

“One clearly concerns the defamation of a public officer, this one is a general law that can protect any Ghanaian. And for me, I don’t see Sections 207 and 208 as necessarily being about defamation and libel and things like that,” he explained.