The Deputy Station Coordinator of Radio Ada, Noah Narh Dameh, has been charged with publishing false news and is facing prosecution at the Tema Magistrate Court.
Noah Narh Dameh had made a post on his Facebook wall about the sidelining of indigenous salt miners by some Chiefs of Ada and Daniel McKorley (McDan), whose company has been given the concession to mine salt in Ada.
Daniel McKorley is the founder of Electrochem Ghana, a subsidiary of the McDan Group. Electrochem Ghana now operates the defunct Songor salt factory.
Noah Narh Dameh’s Facebook post on May 8, 2022, had a picture of McDan and a young man in bandages and handcuffed to a hospital bed. The post incurred the displeasure of Mr McKorley, who reported it to the police.
The police subsequently invited Mr Dameh, who is a co-host of the Manor Munyu current affairs programme on Radio Ada, for questioning.
According to the police facts sheet sighted by The Fourth Estate, “…the news posted was false and because the accused person attached the photograph of Dr. McKorley his life is in danger within the community where his company undertakes project.”
It said when Noah Dameh was invited to the police station, “he could not justify why he posted the news with a photograph of Dr. Daniel Mckorley on his Facebook wall…”
The charge sheet stating the particulars of the offence, which the police presented to the court, reads:
“Noah Narh Dameh, journalist: On the 8thof May 2022, at Ada in the Tema District and within the jurisdiction of this court, you made a publication on your Facebook wall and displayed the photograph of Dr Daniel Mckorley and one Benjamin Anim in handcuffs at Dzodze Hospital and attributed the said Benjamin Anim in handcuffs at the hospital as an action undertaken by Dr Daniel Mckorley, news which you well know to be false at the time of publishing it.”
In his statement to the Police, Noah Dameh recounted that Benjamin Anim, the young man handcuffed to the hospital bed, tried to prevent the abduction of a fellow community member who was struggling with some men suspected to be land guards. The suspected land guards were said to be forcing Benjamin into a private vehicle.
“On Friday, 14th May 2021, at about 2:00 p.m., Benjamin Anim was on a motorbike heading to the Wudakope lagoon site, otherwise known as Star Chemical,” Noah said in a typed statement to the police.
“On reaching the site he found one of his fellow Salom community members, Peter Anim, struggling with four men who were forcibly putting him into a private Opel vehicle with registration number GW 8486-11 to be driven away.
“Benjamin Anim suspected the men to be among the land guards and men in police uniform who shot at community members at Salom and Madagber on the 5th of February 2021, when the community members raised issues over the Songor lagoon lease awarded to Electrochem company,” part of the statement said.
He told the police that when Benjamin Anim rushed to rescue his fellow Salom community member, he hit his hand against the vehicle and sustained cuts in the process. He said Benjamin later sought medical attention at Sege and later asked for a referral to a health facility at Dzodze.
According to Noah Dameh, the District Police commander for Sege, DSP George Aboagye, and five others on May 16, 2022, handcuffed Benjamin to the hospital bed for five weeks without access to lavatory.
“As a result, Benjamin Anim sustained a sore patch of the skin around his wrist where the handcuff was worn for many days. Again, lying on his back only for all the five weeks resulted in his back developing sore,” he narrated in the police statement.
Benjamin Anim was put in police cells in Dzodze and later arraigned before a court in Tema. Together with other community members, he is facing trial for allegedly destroying the property belonging to ElectroChem company, the company owned by McDan.
A photograph of Benjamin handcuffed to a hospital bed and that of McDan were put together in the Facebook post that got Noah into trouble.
There have been protests by residents of Ada who say their livelihoods were taken from them when the salt they had mined all their lives was given to McDan’s ElectroChem.
Some of the residents have been arrested and are now facing various charges and prosecution.
Noah Dameh’s Radio Ada, which has championed the cause of the indigenes was attacked and vandalised by thugs in January this year. The attackers are yet to be arrested.
This month, chiefs of the Ada Traditional Area banned Radio Ada from covering the traditional festival of the area.
Noah Dameh and two others were specifically warned to stay away from the grounds of the festival.
Court Day for Noah Dameh
As early as 7:30 a.m. on August 22, 2022, Noah Dameh was at the Tema Magistrate Court. As he waited for the magistrate and the retinue of judicial officers to fill their seats in the courtroom, he paced the dusty compound, his phone to his ears.
Working in various capacities as a journalist for the past 23 years, it was Noah’s first time in court as someone standing trial.
With him in court were family members, representatives of the Ada Songor Lagoon Association, and colleagues from Radio Ada. As they roamed the corridors of the court, one could clearly sense the mixed feelings of hope and fear.
Hope, because they know the case is getting media attention, but fear because they know a court case can be unpredictable.
“The case has an origin and people are being tormented in my area and the larger media is not reporting it. So, if you ask me how I am feeling this morning, I will say I am feeling great because through this, people will get to hear what is happening in Ada.” Noah told The Fourth Estate before the clerk broke the court’s silence.
Asked if he would want to withdraw the Facebook post and photograph that landed him in trouble, Noah said he was not guilty and wouldn’t withdraw it.
“If I withdraw my statement, the marginalized people, the voiceless people whose voice are not heard, their story will be killed. I want to pursue the case so that I will get the opportunity to say more about the people whose livelihood is being taken away from them.“
When it was time for his case to be called, the court clerk announced “The Republic vs Noah Dameh.”
Mr Dameh and a few of his sympathisers rushed to the courtroom. The magistrate was not in court, but the court clerk had a message for Mr. Dameh: “Case adjourned to September 19, 2022.
No official reason was assigned.
But the notice board had the explanation. The judge, Akosua Anokyewaa Adjepong, a circuit court judge who was supposed to sit in for the magistrate of the court, had to dispense justice elsewhere.
As the crowd dispersed, Noah was hopeful the next hearing would bring the attention of the media and the public to the injustices being meted out to the people of Ada.