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27.07.2005 General News

Kwesi Pratt takes "memorable shot", but ..

Kwesi Pratt takes
Accra, July 27, GNA - Mr Kwesi Pratt, Managing Editor of The Insight, on Wednesday took his "memorable shot" of the hotel near the President's residence, whose purchase is at the centre of a controversy. However, he did not take the shot from the entrance of the hotel, which would have meant walking on the main road to the President's house. The Police had built a heavy presence in the area prior to the midday deadline Mr Pratt had issued. He took the shot from the top of the railway bridge near the Shangri La Hotel. Mr Pratt said his decision to take the shot at noon on Wednesday was in solidarity with a TV Africa crew that was detained last Friday when they went to take footage of the hotel after a press conference by Ms Anna Bossman, Acting Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, which is investigating the purchase of the hotel. Mr Pratt, wearing a blue beret, marched from the Airport Junction accompanied by some 120 people, mainly the youth. They carried a small white banner on which was written in red letters "Just One Shot". When Mr Pratt and the group reached Shangri La at about 1210 hours, they went up the bridge and he took the shot amidst cheers from the group following him. Other people in the crowd also took shots. He was then carried shoulder high when he came down, applauded for his action and they walked back towards the Airport Junction amidst singing. Traffic was held up on the main Accra - Legon road as drivers, passengers and pedestrians watched. Meanwhile, a heavy Police presence could be seen at the HIPC Junction, the turning to the hotel. Police in uniform and in plain clothes were visible at the hotel, the President's residence and the road in front of the two buildings. About 150 people waited at the HIPC Junction to see what would happen. Many drivers parked and waited anticipating that Mr Pratt would march to the entrance of the Hotel, but he did not go that far. Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Kofi Boakye in charge of operations told the Ghana News Agency that the Police were present to ensure that there was no breach of the peace. A man identified only as Osei from Kumasi ruffled a young journalist from one of the private radio stations in Accra. The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and the Minority in Parliament have condemned the detention of the TV African crew by the Police for which the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Patrick Acheampong has apologised. The GJA on Tuesday condemned the over-zealousness, acts of intimidation and lack of proper discretion by security personnel on duty at the President's residence when they arrested a television crew taking pictures of the hotel, whose purchase is at the centre of a controversy. "In our view, the television crew did not breach any ethical standards since they filmed in the open and by straightforward means," a statement signed by the President of the GJA, Ms Adjoa Yeboah-Afari said. "They were also in uniform and using a marked vehicle. In our view, the fact that they did not seek permission did not warrant the ordeal they were subjected to. A warning should have sufficed. "And we think it would have been useful if there had been a clear signpost prohibiting people, including journalists, from taking photographs in that area." A three-member crew of TV Africa - Ms Soyokuor Quarcoo-Tchire, Mr Mark Antim and Mr Samuel Nii Laryea had gone to film the uncompleted hotel close to the President's residence last Friday for footage for a press conference by the Acting Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Ms Anna Bossman. The TV crew said although they had gone only to film the hotel from a distance, they were detained for about two hours, partially harassed and not allowed to contact their office or any person by phone. They were released only after the security personnel, who were taking them to the BNI, had received a call asking them to do so. The GJA said it was happy that an investigation was being conducted by the Police into the whole incident and expressed the hope that the necessary corrective measures would be taken to ensure that such incidents that tarnished democracy did not recur. "We wish to commend the Inspector General of Police and the Police Administration for coming out to apologise to the crew and any other affected persons for any inconveniences caused by the incident. "It was a very honourable, historic gesture that the GJA fully appreciates and we hope that it restores the growing cordial relations between the Media and the Police." The Minority in Parliament expressed its indignation at the conduct of security personnel stationed at President John Agyekum Kufuor's private residence. A statement issued by the Minority and signed by Mr Haruna Iddrisu, Minority Spokesman on Communication, said they unreservedly condemned the incident as an affront to press freedom and clear case of human rights violations. "We are equally appalled by the comments of the IGP for apologising on the conduct of the security personnel and in the same breath seeking to justify the incident by references to irrelevant occurrences of the past. "We the Minority also wish to draw attention to the general inconvenience the President's decision to continue to reside in a private residential area is causing the general neighbourhood, especially after huge sums of money were spent to renovate the Castle for exactly that purpose. "We would like to issue a caution to the relatively new IGP to desist from descending into the arena of politics and that in future, the IGP should avoid not too helpful innuendoes and catch phrases like 'identification hair cuts'." The statement said while the incident of "identification hair cuts" was regrettable, "it is our view that the use of the President's private residence as a detention camp is not only unacceptable but also indeed reprehensible". The IGP had at the press conference where he rendered the apology remarked that even though the crew were detained they were not given "revolutionary hair cut" apparently in reference to a young man, who was detained at the Castle, Osu, the official residence of the President, and had his hair cut during the National Democratic Congress administration. 27 July 05