The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the recent attack on journalists and protesters by soldiers and urges the military authorities to take steps to end what is becoming a disturbing trend.
The MFWA has sighted videos showing the soldiers assaulting journalists who were covering a protest by the youth of the La Traditional Area in Accra on April 15, 2021. The demonstrators were expressing anger at alleged encroachment on their stool lands by the military at La, a suburb of Accra.
Soldiers shoved at least one protestor to the ground and hit him in the head. Even those who decided to flee the brutalities were pursued and beaten with sticks, in what is an unfortunate escalation from reasonable use of force to use of disproportionate force.
Some media personnel were also beaten and manhandled by some of the soldiers at the scene. One of the journalist victims was Nii Ayikwei who works with Citi FM/TV.
“The Soldiers approached us and told us to stop taking coverage of the situation. We told them that they were doing their job whilst we were also there to do ours. This didn’t go down well with them and they started attacking us. They hit my head and legs with the stick they were holding and another one whipped my back with the horsewhip he was holding,” Nii Ayikwei told the MFWA.
Another journalist, Desmond Osae Amponsah of TV Africa, reiterated how the military men subjected them to beatings despite showing their identities as journalists.
“Even though we (journalists) presented ourselves to the military for recognition, the personnel turned deaf to our plea as they subjected us to severe beatings… We were really flogged.”
Desmond further recalled how a female journalist was assaulted. “I vividly recall one of my colleagues appealing for pity when after the security subjected her to beatings. Not even a media ID card was enough to save the weeping lady from the torture. My cameraman was not left from the torture as he was also heavily assaulted by the military personnel.”
The assault has been condemned by the Member of Parliament for La Dadekotopon, Rita Naa Adoley Sowah.
“As MP for the area, I condemn the force that was used by the military against the people of La. I believe the military is to protect, not to harm us. So, if we are cohabitating with the military, I believe there should be some dialogue and consensus on the land dispute. The residents and some journalists have been assaulted, and I don’t think this augurs well for us as a nation,” the lawmaker said during an interaction with the media a day after the incident.
The MFWA emphatically condemns the soldiers’ action as a violation of the right of the journalists to exercise their profession freely without any interference as guaranteed by Chapter 12 of Ghana’s constitution. It is also an attack on the protesters’ right to peaceful demonstration.
This is the fourth incident of assault on journalists by military officers in a space of one year.
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, 2020, 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 enforcing the COVID19 lockdown, assaulted him, together with the crowd that had gathered to watch the fire outbreak.
On August 12, 2020, a soldier identified as Lieutenant Frimpong attacked Stanley Nii Blewu, a cameraman with TV3 at the Tema Station in Accra. The soldier, who was enforcing a clean-up exercise at the bus terminal, also seized Blewu’s camera and the phone of Joseph Armstrong, also a reporter with TV3, before deleting all recordings from the gadgets.
The MFWA believes the authorities cannot be amused about this trend which can discredit the military as an institution built on discipline. We, therefore, call on the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) to ensure that the officers involved are duly punished.
In this regard, the MFWA welcomes the apology rendered by the GAF over the incident and their assurance that “The Military High Command has directed that the case be investigated to ensure that such unfortunate incidents do not occur in future.”
We wish to take the Armed Forces by their word in the expectation that they will conduct thorough investigations into the incident and ensure not only that justice is done but also that it is seen to have been done.