Press Freedom Violations During 2020 Elections in Ghana Must Be Redressed–MFWA

As the dust settles on the December 7, 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections in Ghana, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) notes with deep concern the acts of violence, including a near fatal shooting incident, perpetrated against some journalists covering the electoral process, and demands appropriate redress.

In the first incident, Pius Kwanin Asiedu who works with the news portal, was shot in the left leg on December 8, 2020, while covering the collation of results at the Ablekuma Central collation Centre in Accra. The gunshots followed heated arguments between agents of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) which escalated into violent clashes.

Asiedu was rushed to the Greater Accra Regional Hospital (Ridge Hospital), where he underwent a successful surgery. The journalist had the bullet hole in his leg plugged with a metallic medical piece.

In the same incident, another journalist, Doreen Ampofo of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, Radio, fell and sustained injuries as a political party activist who mistook her for an Electoral Commission Official hurled a stone at her.

On December 9, two journalists from, Laud Adu-Asare and Sandra Obiribea, were assaulted at the NDC headquarters in Accra by the party’s supporters. The two, head of the news website’s political desk and videographer respectively, were covering a press conference by the party executives. The assailants said the media house the journalists work for was biased against their party. Adu-Asare emerged from the attack with a bruised left arm, with his shirt and media jacket shredded. The assaulted journalists received medical attention and reported the incident to the police

On the same day (December 9), Osei Kwadwo Ambassador, a reporter with Pure FM was attacked by some angry supporters of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Kumasi. The assailants accused the Angel Broadcasting Network (ABN), of which Pure FM is a subsidiary, of biased coverage of the elections. The reporter’s mobile phone was seized by the thugs.

In August, the MFWA reported on two separate attacks on two journalists in what we signaled as a safety of journalists red flag ahead of the December 2020 polls.

On June 20, 2020, some NPP thugs assaulted journalist Macbadara Romanus of Tizaa FM in the North East Regional capital, Nalerigu, while he was covering the party’s primaries.

In the second incident, journalist Abraham Ananpansah with PAD FM in Damango, in the Savanah Region was threatened and subsequently attacked on July 2, 2020 by thugs led by Anoma Rahim Atabia, Deputy Regional Organiser of the NPP. The journalist had angered Atabia by reporting on his disruptive conduct at a registration centre.

The MFWA regrets that despite its warning about possible attacks on journalists during the December polls, the political parties apparently failed to educate their supporters to respect press freedom. We strongly condemn these attacks on journalists carrying out their legitimate professional duties and demand thorough police investigations into the above incidents as well as judicial follow-ups.

The MFWA is disappointed that a week after the violent confrontation between agents of the ruling NPP and opposition NDC led to the serious press freedom violations at Ablekuma, the leadership of the two leading political parties have not reacted to the incident. This silence renders the leaders of the two parties complicit in the violations and does not demonstrate their abhorrence of the aberrant behaviour of their party agents and supporters.

We call on the executives of the NDC in particular, to come out and show sensitivity to the plight of the journalists who were assaulted by their party’s supporters in Kumasi and at their headquarters in Accra.

While we condemn the violence perpetrated against journalists, we also condemn some of the acts of unprofessionalism, such as disseminating of disinformation and unverified reports and downright fabrications, exhibited by a fringe minority during the coverage of the elections.

We also commend the media for their generally professional reportage and the skillful manner they handled the tensed aftermath of the declaration of the election results.

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