The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) welcomes the decision of an Accra High Court to award cost of GH¢9,000 (about US$1,600) against Hajia Fati, a member of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) for assaulting a journalist at the Party’s headquarters.
The journalist, Ohemaa Sakyiwaa, who works for Adom FM in Accra, filed the suit citing violations of her fundamental human rights including her right to do her work as a journalist. The suit followed a violent attack on her by Hajia Fati at the NPP Headquarters in Accra where she had gone to cover an event on May 4, 2018. The assailant also destroyed the journalist’s mobile phone.
In giving its ruling today December 2, 2019, the presiding judge, her ladyship Gifty Adjei Addo, held that Hajia Fati violated the reporter’s fundamental human rights to free expression in the exercise of her profession as a journalist.
She added said Hajia Fati’s action is a threat to press freedom and must be punished to deter future perpetrators.
The Editor of Adom FM, Amoadu Christian Ohene, told the MFWA that his outfit is satisfied with the verdict because of its huge implications for press freedom and the rights of citizens.
“We are satisfied that our position has been vindicated and that a clear message has been sent out that perpetrators of assault on journalists and in fact, on any citizens, will be held accountable,” Ohene said.
The victim of the assault, Ohemaa Sakyiwaa, expressed similar sentiments about the verdict.
“I am delighted that justice has been served and my assailant has been made to appreciate that she cannot violate the rights of other citizens with impunity. It is a victory for the media and a boost for the rule of law,” Sakyiwaa rejoiced.
It would be recalled that after the assault, which came on the heels of similar attacks on journalists at the same premises, the MFWA declared the NPP headquarters as “unsafe for journalists.”
The MFWA joins the journalist, Adom FM and the entire media fraternity in Ghana to hail what we consider as a victory for press freedom and a major boost in the fight against impunity.
Besides the killing of Ahmed Hussein Suale, there have been five incidents of physical assault on journalists and three cases of attacks on media houses among other press freedom violations recorded this year, none of which has been redressed. The decision by the High Court to penalise Hajia Fati for the violence she perpetrated against the Adom FM reporter is, therefore, a rare and heartwarming development that will go a long way to boost the self-confidence of the victim and the dignity of all journalists. This decision would also, hopefully, send the right signal to would-be violators of press freedom that they cannot always enjoy impunity for such crimes.
It is our hope that this legal triumph will inspire other journalists and their media organisations to report cases of physical assault and other press freedom violations of a criminal nature to the police and follow-up until justice is done. Pursuing justice to its logical conclusion is the surest way to deter perpetrators of press freedom violations.