Reactions have been building up over the alleged arrest and assault on two Citi FM/Citi TV reporters by National Security operatives.
Majority of the reactions have been critical of the treatment meted out to the two journalists – Mr Caleb Kudah and Mrs Zoe Abu-Baidoo Addo – but the Ministry of National Security says it has initiated investigations into the matter.
The development has also bot been devoid of drama, with the President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr Affail Monney at the centre.
After he had earlier condemned Mr Kudah for taking photos within the prescincts of the National Security without authority, he made a U-turn yesterday, apologising with an explanation that his earlier reaction was based on the “scanty” information he had at the time he responded.
‘I was assaulted’.
Recounting his ordeal, he told the Daily Graphic Friday that on May 11, he entered the precinct of the Ministry of National Security to take photos of some abandoned cars belonging to the Micro Finance and Small Loan Centre (MASLOC) to help expose the misuse of national resources.
He said just as he was leaving the place after taking the photos, he was confronted by an official who inquired from him about his mission at the place.
After the confrontation, Mr Kudah alleged he was arrested and manhandled by both uniformed policemen and plain-clothed officials of the ministry.
“They were all beating me and not even one of them kept a cool head to say they should pardon me,” he said.
Mr Kudah further revealed that he was slapped multiple times despite pleading to be released after he admitted to filming on the premises.
“At this point, they had handcuffed me, and now and again, one will come and press it harder so that I feel the pain,” he claimed.
National Security probe
But the Ministry of National Security has said it had initiated investigations into the alleged assault of Mr Kudah and Mrs Abu-Baidoo Addo during their arrest and interrogation.
In a statement signed by Chief Director of the Ministry, Lt. Col. Ababio Serebour (retd), the ministry said: “It takes with all seriousness, the allegations of manhandling of the two journalists during the interrogations.”
“The Ministry of National Security assures the public that appropriate actions shall be taken if the allegations are found to be true,” the statement assured..
On why Mr Kudah was arrested, the statement said security officers detected the filming of a National Security installation contrary to a ‘No Photography’ rule.
“Mr Kudah entered the security zone under false pretence to take pictures of security installations and surreptitiously forwarded the footage to his colleague, Mrs Zoe Abu-Baidoo Addo,” the statement stated.
The ministry said it remained committed to protecting the rights and freedoms of all Ghanaians.
The National Security statement, however, received strong reactions from pressure group, Occupy Ghana, and a private legal practioneer, Mr Samson Lardy Anyenini.
Expressing concern over the development, they demanded that the perpetrators be dealt with.
Occupy Ghana upset
Occupy Ghana demanded that the government set up an independent investigation into the incident and punish perpetrators if they were found to be culpable.
In a press statement issued yesterday, Occupy Ghana said it was appalled by details of the allegation.
“These allegations, in their very nature, have no place in a civilised democracy, a 29-year-old democratic experiment, and under a republican constitution that touts the rule of law.
“We are appalled and disgusted, and when proven true by an independent body, we demand that the perpetrators so named be charged,” the statement said.
No law was broken
In his reaction, Mr Anyenini condemned the alleged manhandling of Mr Kudah.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, he said Mr Kudah did not break any law in filming the ‘abandoned’ vehicles on the premises of the Ministry of National Security.
National Security operatives, he said, also had no justification or legal basis to manhandle the journalist.
“The manner in which the National Security acted sends the worst of signals to journalists that in executing their mandate, they could be subjected to torture,” he said.
Kudah acted within the law
Giving the legal justifications for his support of Mr Kudah, Mr Anyenini said the journalist did not flout any law of the country including the 1992 Constitution.
Firstly, he said, Article 162(5) of the 1992 Constitution enjoins journalists to ensure that the government is accountable to the people of Ghana, while Article 41 (f) makes it mandatory for all Ghanaians to protect public funds and property and combat waste of same.
Mr Anyenini said the vehicles parked on the National Security premises were vehicles bought with public funds, which had been left to decay at the expense of the state.
It was his contention that Mr Kudah’s filming of the vehicles was in line with his journalistic duties as stipulated under Article 162 (5) of the 1992 Constitution, and his duty as a citizen as stated in Article 41(f) of the1992 Constitution.
“These vehicles were bought with the people’s money and our job as media is to hold the accountability of the government to the people. Once the journalist set out to try and reflect what was going on to the people whose money was used to buy these vehicles, he did no wrong,” he said.
Mr Anyenini said even if Mr Kudah committed an offence, the laws of the country, including the constitution, did not allow a suspect to be subjected to torture upon arrest.
“The law allows minimum force to be used to effect arrest if a suspect resists arrest. In this situation, the journalist was already in handcuffs. Therefore, there was no need and there can never be any justification to beat him up,” he said.
He also challenged the Ministry of National Security to point out the law that makes it a crime to take photographs within its space.
According to him, Article 19 (11) of the 1992 Constitution stipulates that an act could be classified as an offence if it had been clearly defined in a written law, with its penalty clearly prescribed in law.
He decried what he described as impunity in the country’s National Security set-up and the unlawful manner in which it sometimes acted.
GJA President U-turn
Amid the development, the President of the GJA rendered an unqualified apology for his earlier comment regarding the arrest of the two Citi FM journalists.
At a press conference in Accra yesterday, he indicated that at that time he did not know the severity of the issue.
“As a student of leadership, I have learned that a leader is not afraid to change course when confronted with fresh information which challenges his earlier assumptions. As I indicated, the information I had before the interview was scanty. What is available now is sufficient, as legal luminaries, distinguished ethicists and social critics slice and dice the issue from all angles,” he said.
“It is healthy for a free society such as ours for viewpoint diversity to be manifestly venerated, not maliciously castigated. I also take note of the righteous indignation and emotional overdrive over the issue. I, therefore, render my sincerest apology for any misimpression created that I was insensitive to the plight of the journalists but excited about the excesses by the National Security operatives. Indeed, those excesses pass for wickedness at its most naked nastiness. And I totally denounce them,” he added.
Media Commission will act
Coming into the fray, the Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), Mr Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh, said the Commission would trigger action on the matter when a complaint was received from the journalist or his employer.
In addition to that, he said, it was appropriate for the Commission to allow the National Security complete its investigations before action was taken.
“I have spoken with the Chief Executive of Citi FM/TV to furnish us with their side of the matter while we wait for the National Security to complete with their investigation so that we take it from there,” he told the Daily Graphic Friday.
Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh said since the NMC would have to adjudicate on the issue if a complaint was lodged, it would be prejudicial to state its position on the development now.