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29.05.2007 General News

BNI seeks more humane image

The Minister of National Security, Mr Francis Poku, has said that at the moment no one is being detained by the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) for any offence.

He attributed the high rate of detentions in the past to the situation where people misled the security agencies into taking action against innocent people and added that now when the national security apparatus had information about any individual it took time to ascertain the real motives of the informants before taking action.

Mr Poku was speaking at a media forum on journalistic ethics and national security in Accra yesterday.

The forum was organised by the Daily Express newspaper to debate a wide range of issues, including whether journalists must disclose their sources when a report or issue had national security implications.

Mr Poku said the national security apparatus had resolved to respect human rights and the rule of law and added that in the past six years the agency had not been taken to court for any human rights abuses.

He said the security apparatus had carved a new image for itself, saying it had a very crucial role to play in good governance and would pursue that line.

The minister also urged all shades of political opinion to feel free to approach him on issues bordering on the security of the state.

He said the national security apparatus existed for all Ghanaians, adding that in line with its new policy of openness, it was ready to discuss and interact with all sections of the Ghanaian society.

"We can disagree on policies but we can still interact with all shades of political opinion. This is the only way forward. Security agencies exist for all Ghanaians. There must be openness," Mr Poku said.

On the issue of whether a Minister of National Security had to be vetted in public or in camera, Mr Poku said it was unfortunate that he was heard in camera, saying that he agreed with some members of the Minority group in Parliament that some of the issues raised at his vetting were of interest to the public and, therefore, the vetting should have been done in public.

Turning the spotlight on the media, Mr Poku said the security apparatus expected the media to inform it on subversion and other such issues, adding that if, for example, the media had information that plans were being hatched or attempts were being made to rig the 2008 elections, they had to inform national security for prompt action, instead of publishing it.

The Minister of the Interior, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, said the media should desist from thinking that an issue being pursued by national security was necessarily in the interest of the government.

He said the national security apparatus was a very important institution and urged the media to ensure that issues concerning it were not sensationalised.

Mr Kan-Dapaah expressed appreciation to the media for their work and said, "Those of us who lived through the culture of silence appreciate press freedom. It is the media which have got us where we are today."

Mr Yoni Kulendi, a private legal practitioner, who led participants in the discussions, urged the media not to put issues on national security in the public domain without first examining whether doing that would be in the public interest or not .

He said if a journalist thought it was in the national interest, he or she could go ahead with the publication but if he or she did not think so, the news item should not be published.

He said if the journalist was not sure whether it served the national interest or not, he or she should desist from publishing it.

"You should examine the issues thoroughly, weigh them carefully and make a decision," Mr Kulendi added.

Source: Daily Graphic