To all media houses
At The Africa Center for Democracy and Socio-economic Development, we believe in the democratic principle of upward control of power, which suggests that sovereignty resides in the people. This principle secures sweeping rights and freedoms for the people, and among them, the right to free speech. So, in principle, we stand with Professor Raymond Atuguba in the exercise of free speech to advance public discourse on the daunting E-levy.
The recent spate of arrests of Ghanaians, from journalists including a civil society thought leader, all take away rather than add to Ghana’s Democracy. Therefore, we are vehemently opposed to the hissing conspiracy to arrest the good professor for exercising a guaranteed right. We will join every legitimate effort to resist any attempt to materialize the undemocratic whims of the conspirators.
Having said that, we wish to caution care against the allure of exuberance and inherent bias that can lead one to breach the blurred line between free speech and the framework that anchors it. Unfortunately, Professor Atuguba breached the line, and for the sake of democracy, we have to draw attention to such breaches.
We must be resolute to defend the right of Ghanaians to free speech, but we must also embrace the task of denouncing people who may have pushed the envelope too far as to risk democracy in the process. Freedom of speech is an inherent democratic value. In other words, we cannot have free speech without democracy or democracy without free speech.
The relationship is akin to the classic case of the goose that lays the golden eggs. To guarantee continual access to golden eggs, which is, in this case, freedom of speech, we may have to denounce the suggestions of those who propose we kill the goose to extract all the eggs at once.
The decision to flag parts of Professor Atuguba’s lecture as detrimental is informed by our citizen responsibility to ensure that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people does not perish, the words of Abraham Lincoln. From Lincoln, we learned that democracy is a collective pursuit. Therefore, the freedoms it affords are shared rights, and we must hold each other accountable to ensure its preservation.