The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) welcomes the release on bail of Blessed Godsbrain Smart, popularly known as “Captain Smart”, after the broadcaster was interrogated by the Nima Divisional Police Command, and urges the broadcaster to avoid further unprofessional conduct that might put him into trouble.
Officers from the National Investigations Bureau (NIB) went to the journalist’s home in the late morning of December 2, 2021, and invited him to their office. When the journalist honoured the invitation, the intelligence agency questioned him over statements he had made during his morning broadcast and subsequently took him to the Nima Police station in Accra for further interrogation.
The Nima Police issued a statement confirming that it had cautioned and granted bail to Captain Smart over “offensive conduct conducive to breaches of the peace as provided under section 207 of the Criminal Act, 1960 (Act 29).”
The charge relates to the journalist’s call for “positive defiance” from the armed forces, which had a tinge of treason.
“Where we have reached, we require an uprising with positive defiance. I am even shocked at Ghana’s soldiers. You can enter Parliament when MPs are being sworn in but when MPs are fooling, you can’t enter Parliament. Everybody is quiet in this country,” Captain Smart had chanted during his show on Onua TV.
Ghana’s independent media regulator, the National Media Commission, (NMC) issued a statement on December 2, 2021, to rebuke Captain Smart and his employers, Media General, for crossing the line of robust and critical journalism. The NMC said the journalist’s statement amounted to “inciting the Ghana Armed Forces against Members of Parliament and also calling on them to stage an uprising,” adding that Captain Smart and his Onua TV/FM platform have become “a megaphone of war.”
However, the Management of Media General, operators of Onua TV/FM contested the opinions of the Police and the media regulator, insisting that the police misinterpreted the statement made by Captain Smart. The media organisation also said it was “increasingly concerned about the new trend of arrest of journalists and media practitioners.”
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) considers the events of December 2, 2021, as unfortunate and urges the Management of Media General to rein in Captain Smart. We side with the NMC that Captain’s Smarts call on the Military to intervene in the affairs of Parliament was unprofessional and in bad taste.
“Yes, we call for restraint on the part of the police but we also expect adherence to the tenets of the profession. Abusive, unprofessional journalism is a potent threat to press freedom. Journalists can be fearless, independent, critical and impactful without being abusive. The competition for audience and quest for popularity should not push us to do just anything in the name of journalism,” said Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director of MFWA.
We call on Captain Smart to tone down on the populist rhetoric and showmanship in favour of dispassionate presentation of issues.