The past three years haven’t been a good time to be a journalist in Ghana. It seems every journalist walking around has a sign on their forehead that reads, “BEAT ME”, and boy do they get beat! (in African-American slang). The Police Administration says they lack the intelligence to find the policemen who cracked a Multimedia journalist’s skull; the courts only handed down a fine of no more than $100 to a policeman who rode an unlicensed motorbike, broke through the red light and assaulted three journalists, one of whom was a female recently hospitalized for a caesarean section; and we still don’t know who killed investigative journalist Suale. The simple truth is that everyone attacks journalists. The Police beat them up all the time. The military turn journalists into slapping bags. Even Fire & Rescue officers are in on the action, and a notorious female political activist delivered some serial round of beatings to some journalists in Accra recently.
We might have to start providing some body armour to our pressmen and women if we expect them to survive the next ten years. The pen might be mightier than the sword but no pen is mightier than an AK47 rifle butt in this apampamu-store republic, and that is a fact no victim of press brutality can gainsay. And now, after failing to give satisfactory answers for the unreasonable display of braggadocio and the shameful assault and battery of an MP at the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-elections at the Emile Short Commission, our National Security Council have turned their antennae on journalists. Armed with Soviet-era Kalashnikovs, sporting WWII helmets and sure-footed in foot-rot inducing leather boots, National Security operatives stormed the offices of online news outlet ModernGhana.com, presented no warrants (who cares about Miranda), blindfolded three staff including an editor, and whisked them away to a National Security facility where one of the victims alleges they were tortured and electrocuted on allegations of cybercrime. The National Security Council swore by the president’s respect for the rule of law (and their absolute lack of sincerity) that they did not torture anyone, and that the editor was a liar, liar, pants on fire (LLPF).
With the Ayawaso West Wuogon slaps and assaults still ringing in the nation’s (and definitely in Sam George’s) ears, it beggars belief that the National Security setup would do such a thing as attack a media outlet in Rambo style. Clearly the managers of our national security lack perspective (euphemism for a remarkable lack of good sense), and that lack was punctuated by the letter they are purported to have issued in the backlash of LLPF’s accusations of torture. The National Security Council Secretariat in a press release issued on the morning of Tuesday, July 2 said it took a serious view of the torture allegations, writing it off as a deliberate attempt by the LLPF suspect, Emmanuel Ajarfor Abugri, to discredit the investigations and the case against him. “Torture and manhandling of suspects are not part and parcel of the culture and architecture of the secretariat under the administration of President Akufo-Addo”, the statement said, sending half the population of Ghana into guffaws, not so much for the clearly arse-kissing attempt to remove the Akufo-Addo administration as far away from the scandal as possible, but for the part about the denial of a culture and architecture of torture and manhandling by the National Security.
Ghanaians know better, of course, the ill-advised, unsigned press release notwithstanding. Ghana’s National Security is all about manhandling. There were recent reports of a National Security agent drawing his pistol and arresting an ayalolo bus driver who questioned his use of the bus lane near Tessano last year in addition to the AWW brutalities that cost an innocent by-stander his leg bones. Until recently, and thanks to recent amendments and reviews, the National Security apparatus was all about terrorizing, harassing and intimidating political opponents of government. This history, coupled with recent happenings, is why we all keeled over with contempt and disbelief when the statement read, “We wish to categorically state that the suspect, during questioning, was never manhandled, neither was he subjected to any form of forced physical contact”.
Of course blindfolding and hauling pressmen off to undisclosed locations isn’t the stuff of manhandling and physical contact. What an unintelligent press release from a presumably intelligent national security apparatus! But my beef really is this: why doesn’t National Security pick on someone their own size? Like those Rambo-style bank robbers who once killed a Lebanese accountant at North Industrial area and made off with cash we still haven’t retrieved? Imagine if, while the robbery and murder was in progress National Security operatives had appeared in Sikorsky S-92 attack helicopters, abseiled and shot the robbers all the way to some point between Accra and a robbery grave? Or, if National Security had invaded Saboba in the Northern region shortly before the Konkonba-Chokosi conflict and brought all their manhandling powers to bear on brokering a permanent peace deal? That is the essence of national security if you ask me, but you have a terrible habit of never asking this jungle boy anything. This business of attacking unarmed media houses and practitioners with guns and batons doesn’t make sense beyond a masochistic delight in harassing journalists and innocent civilians. Methinks it is time to fire the National Security minister, run the entire apparatus through some sensitivity training (and training in the use of a lot of common sense) or, failing these, send them off to Somalia where they can pick on someone their own size… like Al Shabab terrorists.
My big mouth has ended.
JayJay D. Segbefia is a current affairs and adventure travel writer. Trained as a journalist and a licensed outdoor adventure operative, he combines an ocular attention to factual detail and an acerbic wit to his writing. He is author of the Executive Hallucination, a Ghanaian thriller.
Great write up on a serious issue, have shated to fb, fo hope you don’t mind.
Feel absolutely free, Catherine. 😉