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06.08.2005 Press Review

Editorial: Police Action Against TV Africa Crew Out Of Order But …


THE VERY RECENT incident at the private residence of President Kufuor where the security guards at post accosted journalists from TV Africa and confined them for about two hours in the President's private residence for not seeking permission before attempting to take pictures of the controversial uncompleted hotel building must be condemned in no uncertain terms.

We therefore in solidarity with our colleagues at TV Africa, join all those who support the expansion of the frontiers of freedom of expression, to condemn the incident and offer our sympathy to these unfortunate colleagues, especially because of the verbal harassment and quasi-physical intimidation they suffered in the process.

But it must be realized that the incident was an effect of the over-zealousness of the security guards at post, and their insensitivity to the prevailing political climate.

Conceding that the TV Africa crew did not seek clearance from the owners of the uncompleted hotel building before proceeding to take pictures, we sincerely believe the Police Security Detail on duty at the President's residence should have exercised some circumspection and handled the matter in a more civil fashion. Under no circumstances, in our candid opinion, should they have confined the crew in the residence of President Kufuor. That was completely unacceptable, and we call upon the IGP to entreat his men and women to appreciate the dynamics of our growing democracy.

And therefore, to assume for a moment that there was an official backing of the incident, especially in a period of the repeal of the criminal and seditious libel laws from our statute books and extreme tolerance for freedom of speech, is to be very unfair and dubiously attempting to politicise the incident.

Isn't it sheer political chicanery for some social commentators and even mediamen from the state media – who, exploiting the current dispensation, could go on air and hurl insults at even the sitting President and yet go back to work without attracting a response from Government or his superiors – to compare last Friday's incident to what obtained in the dictatorial Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) days or even to the supposedly democratic regime of the National Democratic Congress (NDC)? Those state-media journalists were absolutely silent on human rights and media freedom violations during those days! Goodness God!!!

Who born dog? Was it not heresy and an act punishable by death or imprisonment without trial, to express a dissenting view, as a journalist or an ordinary citizen, to an act of government or State official?

Do these opposition spin doctors and perpetual agitators think Ghanaians have such a short memory? Well, if they have, we believe that Ghanaians in general are not such dwarf-minded to have forgotten what happened to ordinary Ghanaians, judges and even the John Kugblenus and the Tommy Thompsons?

Do they think we have forgotten what happened to the likes of Kwasi Pratt Jnr. who according to his own claims, had been detained by Jerry Rawlings' PNDC regime for not less than 14 times just for his beliefs?

What about the editor of the paper – Kweku Baako Jnr., who was detained for nearly 2 years and others, who had to leave the shores of this country to other countries to save their lives?

That period of the “culture of silence” these guys must know, has become an indelible blot on the history of this country.

Have we even forgotten the intolerance exhibited in the recent past when we were supposed to be in a democratic era?

Come on! Do we want to compare what happened last Friday to the NDC – sponsored desecration of media houses with human excreta? Are those barbaric acts approved by Rawlings and his men already lost on us?

Please, please, please, let us be a bit honest! What did Nana Konadu say when the ex-boyfriend of her daughter, Ezanetor – Selassie Djentuh- was detained at the Castle – the seat of Government – for not less than 72 hours and had his head shaven with a broken bottle?

Let us also recall the ambush and detention of one of our illustrious journalists, Kabral Blay Amihere at Burma Camp, for one night, for his editorial views.

What about the handcuffing of Messrs Haruna Attah and Kweku Baako Jnr., like criminals after their conviction by a competent court of jurisdiction, to 30 days imprisonment for contempt?

Is it not shameful to recall the Sedi Bansah episode where in an attempt to crosscheck a story, the young man had to be picked up by armed military personnel led by Tony Aidoo, then Deputy Minister for Defence, and detained for ten hours?

These are just a minute part of the litany of atrocities meted out to journalists who were just executing their duties, and other ordinary citizens who in the course of their daily activities interacted with “the Rawlingses”.

Shall we in our right mind compare these things to the outcome of the over-zealousness of some security guards at the President's residence? Please for heaven's sake, let us put politics aside for a moment and be honest with ourselves and tell the story in its right form.

Interestingly, we have some commentators suggest that the police action against the TV Africa crew is a proof that Anthony Saoud had been compelled to sell his property because the location of the property posed a security threat to the President. What a distortion! Yes! The location is a security zone but, it was NOT used as the basis to get him to sell his property to "Chief" Kufuor. Saoud himself has told the world that he began the process to sell his property in 1999, that is when JAK was NOT President. That is a verifiable fact!!! Additionally, there are two private business projects or entities currently close by the President's residence which have not been asked to vacate the area and so what are the opposition spin doctors and their media cohorts talking about?

This is a classic case of starting from the correct premise only to draw a wrong conclusion. Yes, that area is a security zone but that consideration was not used to get Anthony Saoud to sell his property to President Kufuor's son, “Chief” Kufuor! Period!!! Those who think otherwise only either betray their intellectual bankruptcy or political dishonesty or both!!

This Government, in terms of media friendliness, is about the best in Ghana's history. The likes of A.B.A. Fuseini of 'Daily Graphic”, the “Lens”, “National Democrat” and “Palaver” can readily attest to this.

Any challenger?