On June 22, 2015, angry residents of Old Fadama, a slum popularly known as Sodom and Gomorrah in Ghana’s capital, Accra, attacked some journalists who had gone to cover their demonstration against the demolition of their homes by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA).
According to news reports, some of the residents pelted journalists with stones, destroyed their cameras and physically assaulted some of them.
A news team from privately-owned TV Africa was attacked by the protesters. A. C. Ohene, head of news and current affairs of TV Africa, told MFWA’s correspondent in Ghana that the protesters destroyed their video camera and chased them. Gertrude Gyan, camerawoman, and Memuna Uthman Ibrahim made up the rest of the TV Africa crew. Ibrahim fell in the process of fleeing and sustained injuries on her stomach and arms.
Further, Latif Iddrisu of privately-owned Joy FM was physically attacked for photographing the demonstrators as they destroyed property. According to myjoyonline.com, about five protesters descended on Iddrisu for taking pictures of them, injuring him in the process. Eventually, Iddrisu had to drop his phone to distract the mob and escape.
On June 20-21, the AMA embarked on a demolition exercise in the Old Fadama area, alleging that the homes were on water ways and had caused recent floods in Accra. However, the next day, some residents decided to demonstrate without obtaining police clearance. The protests were violent, and the demonstrators destroyed property. Following this violence, the police arrested some protesters but allegedly released some after others threatened to cause further mayhem if their friends were not released.
The MFWA is particularly concerned about this incident due to reports of the police’s failure to protect the journalists during the attack. A voice report on citifmonline.com indicates that some police officers actually fled from the journalists in the middle of an interview. Police have a duty to respect and protect the rights of the people, including the right to freedom of expression and press freedom. It is thus extremely regrettable the police failed to even take steps to protect the safety of journalists. We urge the police to investigate this incident and greatly sensitise police on their role as protectors of all members of society, including journalists, and to punish the protesters who attacked the journalists.
We also appeal to media organisations to train journalists on safety procedures and how to conduct risk assessments to protect themselves when they are reporting on events which are or could turn violent.