The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns reported threats on Empire FM reporter, Emmanuel Ohene Gyan for reporting the COVID-19 related death of the former Metropolitan Chief Executive (MCE) of Sekondi-Takoradi in the Western Region of Ghana.
Kobina Kurentsir Sam passed on at the University of Ghana Medical Centre on June 12, 2020, weeks after his personal driver tested positive for COVID-19.
Ohene Gyan was among the first journalists to report the news on Starrfmonline.com, one of the platforms of the EIB Network for which he works. Quoting an aide to the former mayor, the journalist stated that the former MCE had died of the Coronavirus.
However, relatives of the ex-mayor have been calling and threatening the journalist for reporting that he died of COVID-19.
Ohene Gyan told the MFWA that he has received several threatening calls from people claiming to be relatives of the former MCE of Sekondi-Takoradi.
‘‘Many of the calls were anonymous, but I identified one of the callers as Jonathan Sam, a son of the ex-mayor. He asked me to take down the story within 24 hours or face his wrath,’’ the journalist told the MFWA.
Meanwhile, President Akufo-Addo, in his periodic address to update the country on the pandemic, on June 14, 2020, paid tribute to the former MCE ‘‘whose efforts in enforcing social distancing protocols at the Sekondi and Takoradi markets were, recently highly commended by me, and who sadly passed away on Friday, as a result of a COVID-related death.’’
The media has played a vital role in providing education, sensitisation and education regarding the pandemic and so attacks on journalists in connection with the pandemic are painfully ironic. We therefore denounce the threats on Ohene Gyan and call on his employers to take steps to ensure that he is given the necessary protection.
Ohene Gyan is the third journalist to be abused in connection with COVID-19 reportingin Ghana. On April 5, 2020, Abdul Ganiyu, General Manager of Kumasi-based Zuria FM was assaulted by an army officer over his station’s critical reports of military brutalities during the COVID-19 lockdown. On April 10, a military officer enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown, brutalised Samuel Adobah of TV Africa at Olebu in Accra.
Following these attacks, the MFWA on May 3, 2020, petitioned the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lieutenant General Obed Boamah Akwa, to investigate the incidents. In a letter dated May 13, 2020, the Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Issah Adams Yakubu, on behalf of the CDS, assured that any soldier found culpable will be dealt with in accordance with our disciplinary code.”