Ghana’s opposition political parties have sharply rejected suggestions that use of all social media platforms be blocked for two days during the November general election.
John Kudalor, the inspector general of police, suggested that there could be a ban during the elections from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. to ensure social media are not used to send misleading information that could destabilize the country during the voting.
But Dominic Nitiwul, deputy minority leader in parliament from the New Patriot Party, said banning social media use would be illegal because it would inhibit constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech.
Police should not be seen as breaking the law they swore to enforce, Nitiwul said. "There is no law that allows the police to take such a unilateral decision without first going to court or without having the law backing them," he said. "So clearly this is a suggestion that cannot work.” He added that his party would fight any such move in court.
Some Ghanaians say police would be right to enact a ban if it would prevent the country from being plunged into chaos. The social media ban, they say, would ensure that the West African country maintains its territorial integrity, peace, law and order. They also say police should be allowed to use all means necessary to protect unarmed civilians from those who could use social media to propagate hatred and violence during the vote.
Traditional media next?
Nitiwul disagreed. He cited instances of radio and television programs being used to slander opponents. “Are the police saying that after banning social media, they are also going to ban traditional media?" he asked.
Nitiwul said social media use had never been responsible for any kind of election day unrest in Ghana, "whether in a village, town or city. We’ve never had that.” He added that the negative reaction police have gotten from all parts of the country about a possible social media ban during the election should be enough to discourage them from implementing it.
The idea "is very unpopular among the citizens of Ghana," he said. "No Ghanaian is happy about it, and the [opposition] political parties are not happy about it. And I think the police are Ghanaians and they are listening, and [hopefully] it will be very clear that they will not go there any longer. If they attempt it, I believe parliament will step in and stop it.”