Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo has threatened to take legal action against Al Jazeera for defamation following the broadcasting of a news documentary that implicated him in a financial crime conspiracy. The documentary titled “Gold Mafia” exposed a network of individuals, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ambassador-at-large Uebert Angel, who were allegedly involved in money laundering, smuggling, and corruption activities. In the documentary, one of the actors, Alistair Mathias, claimed that President Akufo-Addo was his former lawyer and that he benefited from a US$100 million infrastructure contract in Ghana.
The President’s office has demanded that Al Jazeera retract and apologize for airing what they claim was an “inaccurate and unfair documentary that contained spurious and unsubstantiated allegations against the President and the Government of Ghana.” The legal counsel to the President, Mr. Kow Abaka Essuman, responded to Al Jazeera’s letter containing the allegations by stating that the President had not been in private practice since the year 2000 and had no recollection of acting as a lawyer, either personally or through his law firm, for Mr. Mathias or his company, Guldrest Resources. They demanded further and better particulars from Al Jazeera to respond adequately to the allegations, including information on the period for which the President allegedly provided legal representation to Mr. Mathias and details of the US$100 million state infrastructure contract.
Al Jazeera refused or failed to provide these details and went ahead with the broadcast of the documentary, which included statements that the President’s office claims were not true. The President’s office argues that these statements were malicious, defamatory, and a calculated attempt to tarnish the reputation of the President and the Government of Ghana. They have demanded that Al Jazeera withdraw the documentary immediately, retract the allegations, and issue an apology.
In response, Al Jazeera has not issued a public statement. However, it is worth noting that investigative journalism is an essential part of media freedom and serves as a critical check on government and powerful individuals. Journalists have a responsibility to investigate and report on issues of public interest, including allegations of corruption and financial crimes. However, it is also essential to ensure that the information presented is accurate, fair, and balanced.
It remains to be seen how this legal threat will play out. Still, it is clear that the broadcasting of the “Gold Mafia” documentary has sparked a significant controversy and brought to light allegations of financial crimes and corruption involving powerful individuals in Africa. It is essential for governments, journalists, and media outlets to work together to ensure that investigative journalism is conducted responsibly and that the public is informed of issues that affect their lives.