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28.01.2008 General News

Minister, journalist clash over Soldier Bar palaver!

By Daily Searchlight
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A Deputy Minister of State has accused ace investigative reporter and the 2007 Journalist of the Year Mr. Anas Aremeyaw Anas of acting irresponsibly and leaking information that has eventually landed at the US State Department.

Mr. Daniel Dugan, who is the Deputy Minister of the Ministry for Women and Children's Affairs, made the accusations on Choice FM, an Accra-based radio station on Friday following the disappearance of several rescued child prostitutes from the Madina Social Welfare Centre.

But in a swift response, Mr. Anas Aremeyaw Anas has said that the Minister is acting out of peeve because he has been badly embarrassed by how poorly his ministry supervised certain aspects of the recent operation to rescue child prostitutes.

Speaking on Choice FM on Friday, Mr. Dugan accused Anas of illegally distributing tapes of children involved in child prostitution, which is against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“I am not too happy about the professional conduct of the journalist,” Mr. Dugan told Choice FM.

He said that before the operation, it had been agreed between all parties to take part in the operation that there would be discretion, only for Anas Aremeyaw Anas to go about distributing the tape to all manner of people, one of whom was a woman operating an illegal NGO in Ghana, who promptly transferred the tape to the US State Department.

He accused Anas of illegally taking pictures of children engaged in child prostitution, which was against international conventions, and subsequently leaking them.

“He leaked the pictures to some members of the press and some people who are not even press men, especially one woman called Tatiana who is operating an illegal NGO which we have recommended that she should stop, and Anas is aware that the woman is operating illegally in Ghana. He sided with this woman. She took the pictures and sent them to the US State Department. What is Anas trying to prove?” Mr. Dugan lamented.

But responding to these accusations, Mr. Anas accused the Minister of peddling obvious untruths.

He explained that operation to rescue the girls who were involved in prostitution at the Soldier Bar was planned through close collaboration between him and the police.

He said that he held several meetings with the police, in which it was decided that if they were going to be able to close down the Soldier Bar, there was a need to procure some hard evidence, which is what he procured and gave to the very top hierarchy of the police, including the Director General of CID, and the Inspector General of Police.

He said that the reason why the Soldier Bar had not been closed down all these years was not because people did not know it was operating. He explained that many newspapers and radio stations, such as Joy FM, the Public Agenda, the Daily Graphic and even the Ghanaian Observer have done stories on the infamous drinking hole, and the question had been why it was still operating after so much bad publicity.

“Then I realized that what the police needed was hard core evidence, so I went and brought in hard core evidence, which the police themselves admit was the basis for which they went and did their operation, so what is the Deputy Minister talking about?” he wondered.

Asked why there is the sudden bad blood between him and the Minister, he accused the Minister and his ministry of inefficiency.

“I am not surprised at all. You know why, it is because his ministry allowed the girls to go and he is suffering the back lash. That is the problem and I pointed that out to him,” he said.

He said that before the rescue operation, several meetings were organized between the stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, the Department of Social Welfare and the Police, with the Ministry acting as Coordinator.

“Have you realized that over the past few days the Minister has been blaming the Department of Social Welfare and the Ghana Police for the release of the girls? Now I say that that is instructive. Why? Because when you look at the plan, both the Social Welfare and MOWAG were supposed to be service providers.

The Social Welfare was to house the girls and MoH was to provide health services to the girls. Now, if you the Coordinator, you don't ensure that the Department of Social Welfare does what they are supposed to do, now you expect me the journalist to go and blame the Social Welfare? So what coordinating role did the minister play? I am telling you, when we sent the girls there the minister was at the stadium, watching football!” Mr. Aremeyaw Anas said.

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