String of attacks against journalists while growing calls for the passage of the RTI Bill

Expression

String of attacks against journalists

A security guard of ex-president John Mahama assaulted Joy FM reporter Kwesi Parker Wilson on 29th October 2018 while the latter was covering the campaign tour of Mahama who is seeking his party's nomination for the presidential elections in 2020. Parker Wilson was seeking an interview with the former president, when he was stopped by security guards. After the journalist protested, one of the security guards reportedly shoved him repeatedly, said the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). 

On 27th October 2018, Top FM journalist Emmanuel Sackey was beaten during the Youth and Women’s Congress of the opposition party National Democratic Congress (NDC). Sackey was trying to get an interview with the winner of the Youth Organiser contest, Edem Agbana, when he was assaulted by an unidentified member of the vigilante group 'The Hawks'. Edem Agbana later reportedly 'justified' the attack by saying that the journalist's efforts to get an interview was annoying some militants, and that the journalist was to blame for the attack. 

On 23rd October 2018, a group of about 20 young members of a church, the Synagogue of Mercy Church in Nambeg in the Upper West Region, threatened correspondent of Metro TV, Adams Musah. Musah was investigating reports that the church allegedly indoctrinates children to leave schools 'to pursue religious redemption', and was approached and threatened by the group when he was taking pictures of the church. When the journalist ran to find cover with the traditional chief Naa Diedong, the latter was also threatened. The church members accuse the two of having tarnished the image of the church. 

On 12th October 2018, the Volta Regional Chairman of the ruling party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), and the municipal engineer of the Keta Municipal Assembly allegedly threatened journalists Akpagana-Kesedovo Logah and Eyram Kingsley Ameshi at the Keta Municipal Coordinating Council in Volta Region. The two journalists were investigating the state of work done in the construction of facilities in the municipality, and were threatened when requesting information on 'commissioned but unoperational' public toilets at the Municipal Works Department.  

Journalist for Ghana News Agency (GNA) Jerry Azanduna says he was abducted and beaten by unidentified men on 27th August 2018, allegedly on the orders of Hassan Ayariga, a politician of the opposition political party All People's Congress (APC). About five unidentified men lured him into a vehicle, claiming to take him to the change of location where a press conference addressed by Hassan Ayariga was to take place, but instead took him to the house of the politician in Bawku. He said he was then allegedly questioned by Ayariga on a recent report he wrote on the politician for GNA, and beaten by the men on his orders to "teach him [the journalist] a lesson". Some of Azanduna's belongings, such as his wallet, phone and USB drive were taken. Azanduna's ordeal ended when security forces rescued the journalist after a tip on the attack, and took him to the police station, where he filed a police report, and to the hospital. Contacted by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Hassan Ayariga denied any involvement although he confirmed that the journalist was at his house at the day of the attack but denied that he ordered party members to take the journalist to his house, nor that he ordered the journalist to be beaten. 

On 16th August 2018, a cameraman of the media group Multimedia Broadcasting Group, Jonathan Adje, was injured after he was attacked by a group of youth supporters of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). Adje was covering an event in which the Minister of Health was commissioning a health facility in the town of Sunkwa, in the Central Region of the country. The group was protesting against the event, saying the ruling party is taking credit for the building of the facility, which they say was built by the NDC while in power, according to another journalist who witnessed the attack. The fellow reporter further said to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA): 

"We saw a group of guys with placards and drums protesting. They hurled stones at us, and one of them hit the cameraman. It cut him. He was bleeding."

On 19th July 2018, a cameraman of GHOne TV, Reynold Dadzie, was assaulted by young protesters while filming the destruction of property during a violent protest in Asawase, a suburb of the city Kumasi in Ashanti Region. The protest erupted in response of the killing of seven people suspected by police to be armed robbers. Young protesters burned tires, blocked roads, threw stones and allegedly beat police officers. Dadzie's camera was destroyed, and he was taken to a hospital to tend to his injuries. 

Investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas - a pseudonym - was subject to threats and intimidation in the context of his documentary 'Number 12' on corruption in football released on 6th June 2018. This includes threats from a member of Parliament. Featuring among those on 4th June 2018, member of Parliament Kennedy Agyapong, who was named in the documentary, said on Adom FM that Anas is 'a blackmailer, an extortionist' and 'should be hanged'. On 29th May 2018, Agyapong said on Adom TV in Twi 'That Anas boy, if this were a different country, he would have been...' before gesturing his finger across his throat. Unidentified perpetrators reportedly also tried to break into the house of Saddick Adams, sports journalist and an associate of Anas, on 31st May 2018. In a statement on 30th May 2018, the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) asked for police protection for Anas and his family. 

Police raid radio station

According to MFWA, police officers, including two members of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), invaded the premises of a community radio in Ada, Greater Accra Region, on 2nd August 2018 seeking to arrest radio presenter Joseph Korletey Korley, also known as DJ Koxterio. Korley had questioned, on the radio, the lack of accountability for the funds raised for the traditional festival Asafotufiami on the part of chiefs. His arrest was allegedly prevented through the intervention of the deputy station manager, and no charges were brought against Korley, who reported himself at the police later that day. 

Media-police forum on safety of Journalists

On 11th July 2018, a police-media forum, organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in collaboration with the Ghana Police Service sought to strengthen relations between the police and media to improve the safety of journalists in Ghana. Outcomes included an agreement to set up of a joint media-police expert committee to develop a comprehensive framework to guide media-police relations.  

Frustration over delay in passage of the Right to Information Bill

The Ghana Right to Information Coalition, a coalition of civil society organisations, launched, in November 2018, the RTI Red Friday campaign, to demand that the Ghanaian Parliament approve the Right To Information Bill. The campaign urges citizens to wear red and demonstrate each Friday before Christmas to demand a Right to Information law. Ghana's 1992 Constitution provides for the right to information in its article 21 (1) (f) which state that: “All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society.” The Right to Information Bill in Ghana was initially drafted in 1999 and reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007, and was only presented to Ghana's Parliament in 2010, during which the bill was discussed, referred, moved, but not passed. Many have questioned the political will to pass the Bill. Despite president Akufo-Addo assurances to pass the bill during his address at the 2017 Africa Open Data Conference on 20th July 2017, as reported previously on the Monitor, the Bill has yet to be passed.

Edem Senanu, of the Citizen's Movement Against Corruption (CMaC) said to Ghana News Agency:

As Ghana's choice of democratic governance requires an active participation by all in the governance process, thereby making the right to information particularly relevant, it behoves on us as citizens to join hands to demand the passage of a credible bill. It is only when those who are to participate in governance are well informed that they can contribute meaningfully."

Association

On 26th May 2018, president and founder of think thank IMANI Center for Policy and Education and good governance activist, Franklin Cudjoe said he believed his life was under threat following him questioning a government contract with company Kelni GVG for the design and development of a  platform for traffic monitoring, revenue assurance and mobile money monitoring. Cudjoe said on his Facebook wall that he received a message from a source within the minister of interior advising him to be on his guard and to watch his movements. Cudjoe lodged a complaint with the police. IMANI had earlier started a campaign requesting the Ministry of Communications (MOC), the National Communications Authority (NCA), and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to review the contract, which it says has issues of transparency and that the services under the contract are already being rendered under previous contracts with other companies. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 25th May 2018, a peaceful silent march was held by the United Press for Development Network (UPDN) to protest against the intimidation, harassment and attacks against journalists in the country. As documented previously on the Monitor, and above under Expression, Ghana has experienced an increasing amount of attacks on journalists. The protesters, holding banners with 'Respect and honour our work' and '17 journalists assaulted in 15 months is bad' among others, said they were planning to submit a petition to the Minister of Information to request public education on the role and significance of journalists. On 23rd November 2018, the UPDN organised another demonstration, and delivered a petition to Minister of Information calling to 'eliminating brutality against the press'. 

On 16th October 2018, police reportedly fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters in the district of New Abirem in the Eastern Region, injuring seven protesters, according to media reports. The protest gathered farmers who demonstrated against the management of Newmont Mining Company against their compensation package for the buy-out of their farmlands. The protesters blocked roads leading to the entrance of the Adeisona mine and burned tyres. Following the protest, the Eastern Regional Minister said he would convene an emergency meeting to engage farmers, management of Newmont Mining Company and other stakeholders to resolve the current gridlock. Meanwhile, the protesters committed to continue their demonstrations until their grievances are addressed.

On 22nd October 2018, students started a protest at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi. The protest was called upon by the leadership of the Student Representative Council (SRC) in response to the arrest of 11 students for allegedly holding a vigil, a couple of days earlier, on the campus on 19th October 2018, without a permit. The protest turned violent, as students set fire to vehicles on the campus and destroyed property. Security forces were deployed and over 20 students were reportedly arrested. According to local media reports, the University was shut down after the violent protests, and students were asked to vacate the premises.  

In August 2018, newly trained teachers under the banner of Friends of Colleges of Education staged a protest in Kumasi against the newly introduced teacher licensing exams to be held on 10th September. The protesters said there has not been any orientation nor course materials, while they also lamented the high registration fees for the exams.