Stanley Assor Jnr., a member of our communication team, shares his thoughts on a recent Ghanaian court ruling between investigative journalist Anas Aremayaw Anas and member of parliament, Kennedy Agyapong. Anas has sued the MP for defamation.
The last time a high-profile official of state attacked a journalist with rants that ascribed criminality to his victim’s vocation, the journalist ended up murdered. That journalist was Ahmed Suale and his attacker was MP for Assin Central, Kennedy Agyapong.
Even while the State is still fumbling for Suale’s killers, another high-profile state official has attacked another investigative journalist in similar fashion. This time, the victim is Anas Aremeyaw Anas and his attacker is a High Court judge, Justice Eric Baah.
His lordship, by a rant of insults, brought the journalist whose anti-hero reputation is forged as much from exposing corruption as his doing so by not exactly walking the tightrope of journalism ethics, into the orbit of news headlines.
Presiding over the High Court in Accra, Justice Baah is reported to have character-sketched Anas as a “blackmailer” and ‘extortionist’ who deploys his nefarious knack in his work as a journalist.
The judge is further reported to have described Anas’ style of journalism as “investigative terrorism.”
“What the plaintiff is doing is not investigative journalism but investigative terrorism.”
This rant preceded Judge Baah’s dismissal of a defamation suit that Anas had brought against MP for Assin Central, Kennedy Agyapong.
Public discussions, especially on social media, have been riddled with suggestions that Justice Baah’s language and salty tone reeked of personal dislike for Anas. This is opinion. What however is straight fact is that this judge, presiding over a court, attacked a journalist over his work. That is not cool!
The Anas style
It’s true Anas’ style of journalism is controversial. Testing the moral impulses of public officeholders with bribes and then secretly recording their reaction is not exactly what the popular conception of investigative journalism is. And astute media practitioners, including veteran journalist, Kwesi Pratt Jr and the Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa, Sulemana Braimah, have publicly disagreed with it.
However, to call it ‘terrorism’ is to criminalize it in first-degree felony terms. A judge should know better!
And for crying out loud, in the past a similar vituperation against Ahmed Suale ended in his dastardly murder by suspects that were probably high on dumb inspiration from Ken Agyapong’s careless rant.
Naturally, Justice Baah’s rant has provoked the question; ‘if Anas, by his methods, has been a terrorist all this while, then why has he not been prosecuted?’
What is interesting is that, while denigrating Anas, Judge Baah was sitting over a court of a judiciary which has in the past had its courts pass judgments in favour of Anas in matters of his use of this same journalism style.
As fallout from 2015’s “Ghana in the Eyes Of God” investigations, which was heavy on the style that Justice Baah condemns, the Judiciary Sacked at least 20 of its judges.
One of these judges, Paul Uuter Dery, sued Anas all the way to the Supreme Court and lost. Dery would later sue at the ECOWAS Court after exhausting Appellate processes in Ghana.
The question is, if Anas’ style of journalism is really a form of terrorism, then why did Ghana’s judiciary sack its own judges over its application in the “Ghana in the Eyes of God” work?
And Anas has swept many prestigious awards both at home and abroad, with this same style of journalism!
They include the 2015 GJA Journalist of year award, a 2017 GUBA award for “exceptional journalism,” a 2019 NiBs Innovations Award, and a 2021 NABJ Percy Qoboza Foreign Journalist of the Year award.
Anas has also collaborated with reputable international institutions including the BBC, on projects.
Inspiration to Presidents
His style of journalism has even been touted by President Akufo-Addo, who long self-confessed his admiration in 2012. Mr Akufo-Addo had even declared intent to use the “Anas Principle” to fight corruption, with the promise swaying some voters. Was the president validating a terror weapon when he made that promise?
In August of the same year, then President Mills commissioned Anas to use his controversial methods to unearth corrupt deals at the Electricity Company of Ghana.
And so, the Anas style of investigative journalism has not always suffered such scorn as Justice Eric Baah is now heaping on it. There was a time when Presidents and even the Judiciary leveraged it.
The Art of becoming the enemy
The fall, out of the good graces of the powerful, appear to have begun when Anas went after corrupt judges in the Judiciary. 2015’s “Ghana in the eyes of God” was basically a secret recording of judges receiving bribes from undercover journalists. In some of the footages, justices were captured accepting money and goats and promising to free first-degree felony suspects on trial for rape and murder.
After the videos were aired, Assin Central MP, Ken Agyapong vowed to undo Anas.
Having stepped on toes in the Judiciary this way, Anas undertook another investigation into corruption at the Ghana Football Association in 2018. The resultant documentary “Number 12’ caused the resignation of the Ghana Football Association President, Kwesi Nyantakyi. This was Anas’ undoing because Ken Agyapong, renewed his vow to undo him. It was in carrying out that vow that the MP defamed Anas.
Mr. Agyapong would later reveal his attacks on Anas were instigated by some leaders of the ruling party who feared that Anas’ expose could harm the party’s political fortunes.
Anas’ style of investigations is controversial, no doubt, but whether you are a fan or despiser should be a matter of opinion. What is unacceptable is ascribing criminality to his work. This is dangerous considering that in the past a journalist has been murdered after suchlike labelling.