On April 10, 2016 security forces stationed at Saaman, a mining community in the Eastern Region of Ghana harassed three Danish journalists from Impact TV, a Denmark-based television station. The security forces also forcefully seized their filming equipment.
The three journalists, Anders Löfstedt, Kristoffer Eriksen and Sandra Haugaard were in the country to record a documentary on mining and environment in Ghana. The team had complied with a recently introduced obnoxious and media censoring directive by the Information Services Department (ISD) that require journalists working for foreign media to seek authorisation before conducting any filming activity in the country. The ISD’s authorisation to the Danish journalists had listed the filming of Saaman as part of what has been approved for their coverage.
According to MFWA’s sources, after the team finished filming and were returning, they were accosted by military personnel who had been stationed to offer security at Kibi Goldfields Limited, a local mining firm in the Saaman area. The security forces together with officials of the mining firm forcefully seized the equipment questioning why they had conducted filming within their mining concession.
The incident was subsequently reported to the police in Koforidua, capital of the Eastern Region. The equipment was also subsequently presented to the police and is yet to be released. According to sources the mining company is insisting on accessing content on the video recording equipment before deciding whether to release it or not.
The MFWA finds this development extremely worrying as it infringes on the rights of the journalists and limits the boundaries of media freedom in the country. The MFWA is equally worried about the implementation of the absurd policy by the ISD which seeks to impose direct censorship on journalists working for foreign media.
A recent authorisation issued to foreign journalists by the ISD in line with the policy, lists specific areas and fields that the journalists are allowed to cover and directs the crew to operate “strictly within the mandate given them.”
The said authorisation also required that after the filming, the journalists should “ensure that copies of the video clips are made available to the Information Services Department for Conformity Reality Check before the videos are aired publicly.” This, the ISD said, was a directive by the National Security Council Secretariat.
The directive clearly imposes direct censorship of the media and clearly contravenes provisions in Article 162(2) of Ghana’s 1992 constitution, which states that: “Subject to this constitution and any other law not inconsistent with this constitution, there shall be no censorship in Ghana.” The ISD’s policy is also at variance with Clause 4 of the same Article of the Constitution: “Editors and publishers of newspapers and other institutions of the mass media shall not be subject to control or interference by Government, nor shall they be penalized or harassed for their editorial opinions and views, or the content of their publications.”
The MFWA condemns the attack on the Danish journalists and also calls on the ISD to withdraw the censorship policy.