The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the assault on TV cameraman, Stanley Nii Blewu, by a military officer and urges the military authorities to ensure that the officer involved is brought to book.
The soldier, identified only as Lieutenant Frimpong, brutalised the journalist for taking pictures of a clean-up exercise at the Tema Station in Accra on August 12, 2020.
On the orders of Lt. Frimpong, all the security officers formed a ring around Blewu and his reporter, Joseph Armstrong. He proceeded to seize Armstrong’s phone and assaulted Nii Blewu who resisted his order to surrender his camera and phone.
The assailant, who was part of security officers helping city guards to enforce a clean-up exercise at the station, also seized the phone and camera of Blewu and deleted all recordings on the devices.
The soldier “kicked my abdomen and left thigh multiple times, hit my right hand with heavy blows several times until my phone fell off and he grabbed it,” the victim narrated in a statement he issued later the same day. “He hit me multiple times on the hand again before he had access to my canon XA10 camera,” the journalist said.
The seized items were later taken to the office of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) where the soldier repeated his assault on the cameraman who had followed up to retrieve his equipment. The military officer finally returned the camera and the phone but only after he had deleted all the visuals.
Meanwhile, the Director, of Public Relations of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), Colonel Eric Aggrey-Quarshie, told the MFWA that “the matter is being amicably resolved.”
“The military and the media are both serving the public interest and need the support of each other. Therefore, the two institutions must find a way of working together in peace. That is why we took the step to engage the Management of TV3 over the incident which was an unfortunate misunderstanding,” said Colonel Aggrey-Quashie.
The Chief Operations Officer of Media General, Winfred Afful, confirmed that the military authorities have come to seek amicable settlement of the incident.
“We engaged at length and in the end, we reached an amicable settlement that satisfied all parties,” Afful disclosed, adding that the two institutions “have agreed to continue to work together to improve relations and avoid a recurrence.”
This is the third time in four months that a soldier has assaulted a journalist in Ghana. On April 5, 2020, a soldier, Second Lieutenant Betrot Ampoma, assaulted Yusif Abdul Ganiyu, General Manager of Kumasi-based Zuria FM. She had accused the journalist’s media station of discrediting the military over their enforcement of the COVID-19 lockdown.
On April 10, a military officer identified only as Damfour physically assaulted Samuel Adobah of TV Africa at Olebu in Accra. The journalist was covering a fire outbreak when the soldier, who was part of a COVID19 enforcement team, assaulted him in the process of driving away the crowd that had gathered to watch the fire outbreak in breach of the lockdown.
The MFWA on May 3, 2020, petitioned the Chief of Staff (CDS) of the Ghana Armed Forces, Lt General Obed Boamah Akwa, over the attacks. In response, the office of the CDS in letter dated May 13, 2020 and signed by the Chief of staff, Rear Admiral, Issah Adam Yakubu, assured that “any soldier found culpable would be dealt with in accordance with our disciplinary code.”
The MFWA finds the recent spate of attacks on journalists by military officers quite disturbing and urges the military authorities to take steps to curb it. We believe that journalists on duty should feel assured that they can count on security officers to protect them from attacks by thugs, rather than feel intimidated by the presence of soldiers. While we condemn the assault on the TV3 cameraman and would have wished for justice for the victim, we commend the military authorities for their responsiveness. The MFWA nevertheless urges the GAF to deal with the errant soldier in accordance with its internal disciplinary processes.