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Curbing mob injustice in Ghana —the role of the media

By Mabel D. Awuku and Ampomah Patience
 

“Solitude is strength; to depend on the presence of the crowd is weakness. The man who needs a mob to nerve him is much more alone than he imagines.”— Paul Brunton.

Ghanaians have always been known to be peaceful and anti-violent. These values have always been held in high esteem, even before colonization began. The shrieked voices and sympathy that Ghanaians show towards brutality is undoubtedly evidence that my people are very humane.


However, an incident that nearly cost me my life is enough reason to doubt if today’s Ghanaian still holds the values held in high esteem by Ghanaians of yesterday.
It was a usual Saturday morning and I had decided to get a few foodstuffs for my home which was my normal routine. On arrival at the Makola market, I hurriedly pushed myself through the crowd, purchasing my items. Satisfied with the tomatoes I had bargained for from the first vendor, I moved to the next item on my list— spinach.

 

I got to a vegetable stand only to notice everyone pointing fingers at me. A crowd was suddenly neck lacing me.  “She is the one, she is the one who stole the tomatoes”, they exclaimed! And in a twinkle of an eye, I received two heavy slaps from one built man. “I didn’t steal anything”, I tried to defend myself. Someone pushed me from behind and I was in total disarray and shock. If not for the timely intervention of the woman I bought the tomatoes from, I would have been buried long ago.


Now, I ask, why has the Ghanaian society suddenly resorted to meting out instant injustice or best known as mob injustice to suspected criminals?


What is mob injustice?


A mob injustice can best be defined as the assembly of 2 or more persons, without authority of law, for the purpose of doing violence to a person or property of anyone supposed to have been guilty of a violation of the law, or for the purpose of exercising correctional powers or regulative powers over any person by violence. Mob in justice is a gross act of injustice and an abuse of democracy. It perpetuates a cycle of violence, creates a culture of fear and rejects personal accountability for violent acts that are committed in the name of justice.


The law and mob injustice


The pinnacle of the values of any society is reflected in its justice system. Mob injustice is frowned upon everywhere across the globe. It is mostly practiced in African countries albeit the fact that it explicitly violates two articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights —Article 10 “everyone is entitled in full equality a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charges against him” and Article 11 (1) “everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.


The 1992 Constitution of Ghana also states explicitly that “a person who has not been convicted of a criminal offence shall not be treated as a convicted person and shall be kept separately from convicted persons” (Chapter 15, Article 3).


Article 1 of Chapter 19 also states that “a person charged with a criminal offence shall be given a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court of law.”


Why then has our culture tended to love vigilante justice when we have a constitution that governs our conducts as citizens of Ghana?


Why mob action?


Several reasons have accounted for people’s participation in this inhuman act of injustice. Many people have attributed it to the lack of confidence in the judicial system due to the intense bribery and corruption that has engulfed the system; little trust in the police; rage and anger as well as delayed justice are the many reasons people endorse instant\mob justice.


Even though, most often, social vices like armed robbery, pick pocketing and theft have left many people victims of mob injustice, innocent people have also received their share of this instant injustice.

 


The role of the media in addressing the issue


The media is known to be the sword arm of democracy and the fourth estate of the realm. It acts as a watchdog to protect public interest against malpractices and creates public awareness. Its ability to quickly disseminate information has earned it that role of curbing mob injustice that has plagued our nation.


The media, therefore, can best perform this role by adopting interpersonal communication through organizing seminars, workshops and providing forums on which skilled personnel will sensitize the citizenry on the devastating effects of mob injustice and how best the society, as a whole, can deal with suspected criminals.


Aside the platform mentioned above, the media has a host of other very important platforms which include call-in programmes, discussion segments, talk shows, vox populis and various others that can be used to educate and enlighten citizens on their rights and the rights of others and, as well, set agendas that will drum home the need to refrain from activities such as mob actions.


The media also performs an entertainment role, which it can use in drama’s, soaps, music and other entertaining segments such as comedy to engage listeners \viewers in understanding human rights issues.


On the watchdog role of the media, the society relies more on the media to be informed on activities and occurrences across the country. This helps other arms of government, especially the executive, which hosts the security agencies and other important operatives of government, to get to know issues and activities, be it legal or illegal, in the country, so as to provide prompt checks and balances to arrest the situations wherever they occur.

 

Conclusion

The life of every citizen in Ghana is of great importance in nation building. The loss of a single human resource is a big loss to the family, friends, society, the nation as a whole and the world at large.  And although the actions of a mob seem to reflect their sentiments of abhorrence to criminal acts, these actions are not justified by law and they tend to devalue the dignity of the suspected criminals involved.


The government cannot do it alone, neither can the media. You and I have that responsibility of ensuring that the act of mob injustice is eradicated from the Ghanaian society. Together, we can build a better Ghana for our future generations.

 


The writer is an officer of the information Services Department.

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