Another attack on journalist raises concern about press freedom ahead of Ghana’s 2024 election

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) deplores the attack on Mohammed Aminu M. Alabira of Citi FM/Citi TV on Saturday, January 27, 2024, in Yendi, in the Northern Region of Ghana, and demands justice for the journalist.

As the Northern regional correspondent of the Accra-based media house, Alabira was covering the ruling New Patriotic Party’s parliamentary primary in Yendi when he was assaulted by the Member of Parliament, Farouk Aliu Mahama and other thugs.

Several sources including the police indicate that violence broke out during the vote-counting process at Yendi Senior High School. According to the Citi news website, “Mohammed Alabira was caught in the violence, where he was slapped from behind by Farouk Aliu Mahama while he was filing a live report”. The report says the MP’s boys also pounced on the journalist, seized his phone, and assaulted him.

It took police intervention to rescue Alabira who emerged badly bruised, with his shirt torn to shreds. The journalist officially reported the assault to the Yendi Divisional Police Command and received medical attention.

This attack is another red flag as far as the safety of journalists is concerned during the 2024 general elections.

It comes only a little over three months after another journalist with Citi FM was assaulted at the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) party’s Greater Accra regional office.  Akosua Otchere was covering a vetting process for the party’s Parliamentary candidate aspirants for the Odododiodioo Constituency on October 13, 2023, when she was assaulted during an outbreak of violence. Over three months on, the party executives have failed to honour their promise to sanction the perpetrators of the attack on the reporter. Meanwhile, the police are yet to provide any feedback regarding the complaint filed by the victim.

Just a week before the assault on Ms. Otchere, a group of thugs affiliated with the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) stormed the studio of UTV and disrupted a live broadcast, accusing the station and a particular panelist of bias. The violent intrusion on October 7, 2023, forced the station to go off air for a few minutes, only to return playing commercials.

The latest attack on Alabira of Citi FM/TV is also the second attack on a journalist by thugs linked to leading members of the ruling NPP in just the first month of this election year. On January 4, thugs close to Mavis Hawa Koomson, the Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, assaulted David Kobbena, known on radio as Ohene Kwame David of Cape FM, located in Cape Coast. The journalist was assaulted while covering the vetting of aspiring members of parliament for the ruling New Patriotic Party in the Central Region. The assailants had accused the journalist of attacking the Minister as a panelist on a UTV programme. Despite denying the accusation, insisting he had never been on a UTV panel and producing an identity card to support his claim, the thugs still pounced on the reporter.

It is instructive that the three cases of assault on journalists in Accra, Cape Coast and Yendi since October 2023, have occurred during internal party vetting/voting processes. If the local and internal electoral processes of the two leading political parties are generating this level of petulance, with journalists targeted for attacks, we should be worried about the safety of journalists covering the general elections in December.

In view of this, the MFWA urges the Police in Yendi to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the attack on Alabira. The continued attacks on journalists and disruption of electoral processes by violent party supporters and errant boys of politicians threaten to undermine the formal ban on vigilante activities. We therefore urge the judiciary to respond appropriately to the challenge by issuing convictions that are deterrent enough.

The MFWA also calls on political parties to call to order their foot soldiers, their rabble-rousing leading members and their escort of muscular bigots. Finally, we wish to appeal to media managers and owners to be alert to the high risk involved in reporting on the activities of political parties and take steps to improve the protection and safety of their reporters in the run-up to the crucial polls.

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