Securities Agencies Lead In Brutalities Of Journalists

Securities Agencies Lead In Brutalities Securities Agencies Lead In Brutalities

The security agencies, including the Police Service and the Armed Forces, have been cited as a group of people, who have dished out the most brutalities to journalists over the past years.

According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), comparing Ghana's case study with some other countries, especially in the sub-region, the country is fast becoming one of the countries with the highest cases of attacks on media professionals.

Following them closely in the second, third and fourth positions are individuals, political party affiliates and organized groups, the MFWA boss revealed.

According to the Executive Director of the MFWA, Sulemana Braimah, a total of 15 journalists were attacked in 2018 alone, while the following year, the number jumped to 18. This year 2020, the number of brutalities against journalists is 11 as at September 2020.

The eloquent media practitioner, described the figures as worrying, adding the Ghanaian situation is one of the highest in West Africa. He displayed pictures of a number of journalists, who have been attacked in recent past.

At the national forum on media and peaceful elections in Ghana in Accra, Mr Braimah, remarked "as you can see, members of the security agencies happen to be in the comfortable lead. Quite often, of course, not the top officials, but members on the ground in the various districts and regions [do this] as a result of misunderstanding".

Mr Braimah said, even though the number may be deemed as not high, it is actually substantial in the sense that in some cases during such brutalities, more than one journalist is involved.

"These are incidents but sometimes, one incident could involve three or four journalists so in terms of individual victims, we are talking about quite a number of people being victims. One may say that but these are not too many but the statistics across West Africa indicate that, Ghana happens to be the country that we record a significant number of violations and that is because, we are free to say what we want to say. In other countries, the incidents may not be that much but it could also be because journalists are censored so do not say what will get them into trouble" he noted.

He recalled some of the incidents that were recorded in the years under review, by displaying photos of the likes of Mananessh Azure Awuni, formerly of JOY FM, Ohenema Sakyiwaa formerly of Adom FM, JOY FM's Latif Iddrisu and the gruesome shooting and killing of an investigative journalist, with the Tiger Eye PI, Ahmed Suale in January 2019.

The Foundation, which is known for monitoring and recording issues of media freedom, safety and professionalism in the journalism space and naming and shaming perpetrators of indecent expression, said the three go hand in hand.

The duties and responsibilities of the media he said are enshrined in the Constitution, adding the establishment of the National Media Commission (NMC) is also another way the state has managed to make sure that the media remains as independent as possible, even though there are some subtle ways government may try to indirectly censor the media.

The MFWA founder, who hailed Ghana's system to some extent, also tasked journalists to be professional, especially as the 8th general elections approaches, so that the impending elections will be conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner.

He said, the formation of the likes of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the Private Newspaper Association of Ghana (PRINPAG), Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) has also helped in protecting the rights and responsibilities of journalists, leading to them working in an environment generally devoid of threats, fear and intimidation.

Mr Braimah, said even though journalists have the responsibility to act professionally, their work is not cut out to please either the government or the opposition, but for the people they serve, hence must be allowed the space to do their work.

He charged "Journalism is not about praise singing, not about what the government wants to hear or the opposition wants to hear. It is about what is good for the people". He acknowledged that even though there are some "positive fundamentals" "but there are concerns that need to be addressed". He added "one cannot say they love democracy but do not love the media".

On measures being put in place to reduce some of these attacks, the MFWA boss, said it is engaged in several activities with its international partners, especially the Netherlands Embassy and also locally the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), to train journalists across the country on safety of journalists.

Director of Public Affairs at the Police Service, Supt Sheila Kessie Abayie-Buckman, outlined some of the things the Service is doing to ensure that journalists and the Police work together to deliver a very peaceful election.

Reacting to the security agencies coming first as people who brutalize journalists, Mrs. Abayie-Buckman, said these attacks happen because of clash of duties and lack of understanding between the two groups. In this regard, the Public Affairs Director said the Service has outfield some 25 important measures to be done to enhance safety ahead of the elections in December and tasked the media to follow them keenly to avoid further clashes with the security agencies.

Outgoing Chair of the Christian Council, Most Rev. Prof Emmanuel Asante, underscore the importance of the media saying the media is so powerful that, "those who control it, control the state".

He said, the proliferation of the media which started in the late 1990s, has greatly helped in informing, educating and entertaining thereby helping in the shaping of opinions.

The preacher, said mass media, especially has contributed immensely to Ghana's democratic dispensation, but was quick to add that it should not cloud its attendant negatives as most of these media platforms are owned by very influential and powerful people.

While highlighting the challenges the media face in discharging their duties, very topical issues such as sensationalism, should be of concern to practitioners.

He hoped the forum, which was attended by various stakeholders, including the Police, Military, the Electoral Commission (EC) NMC, GJA, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), UNESCO, the Police Service the Military and others, will help bring to the fore, the pertinent issues that need to be addressed so that the December elections, will be held in a peaceful and transparent environment.

Chairperson of the NCCE, Josephine Nkrumah, said the Commission is wide awake as events leading to the parliamentary and presidential elections unfold.

Madam Nkrumah, said the various stakeholders of the elections, especially politicians and the media need to focus on the issues devoid of threats, attacks and acrimony, adding the media's role in this endeavor is very critical in shaping and sharing ideas.

She said, this is not the time to fan the fire as it could lead to something unpleasant, adding "the pen and mic are still mightier than the sword". She continued that the NCCE and the media "are duty bound" to ensure peace and credible elections. Madam Nkrumah commended the MFWA in it role in the media space and also applauded one of it projects popularly known as "fact check".

She hinted about the Commission's impending survey and encouraged all to be interested when it is finally released. The Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, Ron Strikker, commended the MFWA for organizing the forum, saying "dialogue is always key".

He was confident that as has been the case in every election since 1992, Ghana will come out of the elections peaceful, but said that will require all hands to be on deck.

There were other speakers like the EC, GJA, GIBA UNESCO and many others. The forum themed "Media and peaceful elections in Ghana", forms part of MFWA's project on Improving Media Professionalism and Safety of Journalists Situation in Ghana.