It was a turbulent period for the media in Ghana last week. In what appears to be a creeping state of insecurity for journalists the week has recorded a number of attacks on press freedom.
On March 14, 2019, a group of police officers brutally assaulted three journalists from the Ghanaian Times newspaper, leaving one in a critical but stable condition at the hospital. The journalists, who were on their way to cover a programme, got embroiled with one police officer who had knocked the mirror of their car with his motor bicycle. Other police officers joined in assaulting the journalists.
A day later on March 15, a pastor, Reverend Owusu Bempah stormed the premises of Accra-based Radio XYZ with four thugs in search of one of the station’s presenters, Mugabe Maase. The pastor said the presenter had made derogatory remarks about him during the previous day’s edition of the political talk show that the presenter hosts at the station.
Threatening to kill Maase and get the station closed down, Owusu Bempah reportedly created chaos at the station as his thugs attempted to manhandle guests who condemned the invasion. It is the second time in four months that the pastor has attacked a radio station.
“We unreservedly condemn this dastardly act by Prophet Owusu Bempah and trust that the security agencies shall deal with the matter expeditiously,” a statement from the management of Radio XYZ said. The management has since reported the matter to the police.
Prior to these incidents, investigative journalist, Manasseh Azure Awuni of the Multimedia Group had been receiving chilling threats from unknown persons. The threats followed the release of an investigative documentary by the journalist on March 7, 2019, about a vigilante group reportedly aligned to the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), which has been using the former seat of government, the Osu Castle, as its training grounds.
The Media Foundation for West Africa is deeply concerned about the sad events of the past week which add to a growing number of press freedom violations in Ghana in recent times. These violations create a creeping sense of insecurity for journalists and the media in Ghana which is otherwise held up as a model in Africa in terms of respect for press freedom.
We, therefore, call on all the stakeholders, especially the police, to take urgent steps to arrest Ghana’s slide into press freedom notoriety. We also urge the Christian Council of Ghana to call Reverend Owusu Bempah to order, given that this is not the first time he has attacked a radio station.