Ghanaian Journalists Must Rise Up Against Tyranny, Intimidation

Recent incidents of assault against journalists in Ghana paint a dire picture of the safety of journalists’ situation in the country and the trend must be fought back with all the power at the media’s disposal.

Particularly, the MFWA finds the current spate of physical attacks against Ghanaian journalists by both state and non-state actors very alarming.

On April 10, 2018, we reported that 17 journalists had been physically assaulted in the country over the previous 15 months. The report followed police brutalities against Latif Idris, a reporter with Joy News, who was covering an event at the headquarters of the Ghana Police Service in Accra.

Following this report, there were several assurances by the police that they would ensure that the growing trend of abuse against journalists are curbed. Indeed, following the controversial ranking of Ghana as having the freest press freedom environment in Africa by Reporters Without Borders, many government officials including the Minister of Information reiterated government’s commitment to protecting the rights of journalists. Also during the just-ended World Press Freedom Day event in Ghana, the Minister of Information and even the President of Ghana gave assurances that safety of journalists will be protected.

The MFWA therefore views with dismay the incident of May 4, 2018, in which one Hajia Fati a known NPP activist assaulted Ohemaa Sakyiwaa, a reporter of Accra-based Adom FM. This incident is especially outrageous and embarrassing as it happened just a day after Ghana hosted the world to observe the World Press Freedom Dayand at the headquarters of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).

This is the second time in recent times that Hajia Fati has abused journalists. On January 31, 2018, she threatened a journalist with TV3 network in Accra, Kwakye Afreh-Nuamah, for reporting her colleague, one Hajia Boya Musah, to the police. Hajia Musah had the previous day issued death threats against the journalist whom she accused of repeatedly criticising the performance of Ghana’s Minister for Water Resources and Sanitation.

The assault on the Adom FM reporter is also the second such incident at the NPP headquarters in less than five months. In the first incident, which took place on December 21, 2017, four journalists from three media houses were brutalized by party security guards while covering a demonstration at the party’s headquarters. Regrettably, the party’s executives have not reacted to the incident despite a wave of public condemnation that followed it, including a petition from the MFWA to the Acting Chairman of the party, Mr. Freddie Blay, to ensure that the culprits are punished.

Although the NPP has, through its General Secretary, John Boadu, issued a statement to condemn the latest attack on Ohemaa Sakyiwaa, the statement has come too late and offers very little assurances. In the first place, the reaction comes after three days of passionate appeals, condemnations and threats of boycott.  Secondly, the statement portrays an attitude of denial by referring to the assault as an “alleged” incident, despite the perpetrator’s own admission of the offense in a couple of interviews.

We commend the Multimedia Group for officially reporting the matter to the police and urge the police to ensure that justice is served.

We also commend all media organisations and journalists who have taken a stand against the on-going attacks on journalists and urge the media to take their fate into their own hands by showing solidarity and mobilizing themselves to fight back the creeping threat of tyranny and impunity.

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