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Open Access ‘Newsworthy victims’: The killing of Maxwell Mahama and the culture of lynching in Ghana

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This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY licence.

Following the 2017 killing of Maxwell Adam Mahama by a lynch mob in Ghana, this article engages with the subject of lynching in Ghana through a content analysis of newsmedia items relating to the practice. While reactions to Mahama’s killing invite optimism that lynching as a form of instant (in)justice is being problematized in Ghana, this study leads to a less optimistic position. State, media and public responses to Mahama’s killing were compared vis-à-vis similar killings of two police officers ‐ Jerry Wornoo and Richard Owusu-Sekyere ‐ in 1998. Drawing on the relevant literature, this study concluded that a number of factors combined to make Mahama, Wornoo and Owusu-Sekyere ‘newsworthy victims’. In contrast, victims in several lynching cases reported by Ghanaian media between 1999 and May 2017 were not deemed newsworthy, thus attracting less attention. Consequently, there have been missed opportunities following the Wornoo and Owusu-Sekyere killings to make critical systemic interventions in Ghana to prevent lynching. Hence, it is argued, the mere sensationalization of Mahama’s lynching may not trigger the requisite systemic social change. Recommendations are made to harness the momentum from Mahama’s killing to address instant (in)justice.

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Keywords: Ghana; Maxwell Mahama; lynching; mob justice; news values; newsworthy victim; vigilante

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: 0000000121518595Cape Breton University 2: Ghana Broadcasting Corporation

Publication date: October 1, 2020

This article was made available online on April 2, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "‘Newsworthy victims’: The killing of Maxwell Mahama and the culture of lynching in Ghana".

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