Joy News has responded to government's statement on its latest documentary detailing the operation and training of a pro-government militia group, 'De Eye' at the Osu Castle.
Manasseh Azure Awuni’s undercover work exposing how the group is being trained at the former seat of government has been praised by the opposition NDC but the government is unimpressed.
In a press statement to respond to the content of the documentary which was aired on Joy News on Thursday, Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah rubbished the findings. But JoyNews has a response.
On Joy FM’s Top Story on Friday, Manasseh who investigated the activities of the group - De Eye - joined host Evans Mensah and Myjoyonline.com’s Editor, Malik Abass Daabu to respond to government’s claims.
What are the claims government made?
“Firstly, the Promotion and narrative of the documentary stated emphatically that a militia (a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency) had been uncovered training and operating at a “Security Zone”, with the complicity of the current administration, and identified them as belonging to the New Patriotic Party. Surprisingly, the 20-minute documentary does not show any evidence of such a militia or vigilante group training or operating at a “Security Zone”. Rather, it shows a group of young men and women, dressed up in white shirts and black suits, converging at the Castle, Osu in the believe that jobs will be found for them.
“From JOYNEWS' own documentary, it is clear that the company is involved in helping unemployed young men and women find jobs, and operates a website that openly states their objects. Again, in the documentary, officials of the company claim that the they are in the business of helping people find jobs, and encourage the persons who sign up for their services to avoid engaging themselves in acts that breach the laws of our country…”
Joy News’ Response
Manasseh said “When we started this documentary, we looked at the history of this group and first we decided to film their activities. Anytime we went there we saw them doing military drills. Their trainers are ex-military officers and their salutations “aho, ahoya” and everything is like that of a security agency. Their leaders are called and respond to security terms: the head is called a Commander, below him a Chief of Staff and other Warrant Officers (WOs) who are also in the training.
“Beyond that, we tried to look at what this group is about. In August 2018, Fraser Owireku Kegya who is the Chief of Staff of the group granted an interview to TV3 and that interview was on party militias and his group was identified as one of them and he was trying to describe what his group was about.”
In that interview, Owireku Kegya told the interviewer that “De-Eye group is all over the 10 regions of this country and we have over 5,000 members. De-Eye group is made up of the youth of this country who believe in the ideas and policies of the Akufo-Addo government.”
Manasseh referred to a story written by the Daily Guide in 2012 titled “Vigilante Group vows to protect ballot box’, which gives credence to the Joy News documentary, only that the story describes the group as a ‘vigilante group’ not a militia, the term Joy News uses to describe such groups after one of the Commissioners of the Commission of Inquiry investigating the violence that characterised the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election, recommended the change in name.
Indeed, if members of the group are not a militia but job seekers as the government said, why are the people not being trained on how to write CVs or anything of that nature but are rather taken through military drills, Manasseh questioned.
The government statement said the young men and women converge at the Castle, Osu in search of jobs, but on their website – de-eyegroup.com - it is stated clearly that they provide security services in Ghana.
Continuation of the first claim
“… Though in the advertisement, the producer - Manasseh Awuni suggested the undertaking of a fearsome training exercise by these young men and women, and backed it up with photos of masked men wielding assault rifles, the documentary itself failed to show any of such training exercises taking place, or the use of assault rifles by these young men and women. Government is of the view that this is most unprofessional and very misleading, and we can only urge the producer Mr Awuni and Joy News to avoid such misrepresentations in the future. The narrative put on the advertisement, to all intents and purposes, is not supported even by the footage aired.”
Joy News response
Manasseh’s documentary did not show anyone masked or holding guns. The online publication, indeed, included a library photograph but none of that was shown in the actual documentary.
“Secondly, though the documentary rightly states that the National Security apparatus has made efforts to close down the office of the company at the Christiansborg Castle, it deliberately failed to highlight the fact that the office had been closed down by National Security since October 2018. Indeed, as has been rightly indicated, there is no militia or vigilante group operating from the Castle. This is an important fact which government believes had to be stated to viewers and listeners, but was deliberately omitted.
“De-Eye Group, initially, succeeded in using the garden grounds of the Castle, Osu, for its activities because its promoter, one Nana Wireko Addo, had been assigned an office there to work with a taskforce to retrieve landed properties and vehicles in the possession of officials of the erstwhile Maharna administration. After the conclusion of the work of the taskforce in August 2018, he, subsequently, converted the office allocated to him into a private business office for the stated purposes of his company. Admittedly, this should not have been allowed to happen in the first place, but was quickly dealt with in October 2018, when he was evicted from the premises by a joint operation involving personnel of National Security and the Police.
“We wish to reiterate that, contrary to your attempts, Nana Wireko Addo is currently not associated with President Akufo-Addo. Indeed, Nana Wireko Addo left the employ of President Akufo-Addo in 2010, at a time when he was not even presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party. A simple check would have revealed this and ensured an avoidance of the attempt to link his organisation's activities to the President.”
Joy News’ response
Speaking specifically to this portion of the statement “…though the documentary rightly states that the National Security apparatus has made efforts to close down the office of the company at the Christianbourg Castle, it deliberately failed to highlight the fact that the office had been closed down by National Security since October 2018,” Manasseh said government’s claims are inaccurate.
He said before the documentary was aired, the Director of Communications at the presidency Eugene Arhin was contacted for a response. He texted, “The president has no knowledge of the alleged activities of this said group, let alone sanction their activities.”
However, when Manasseh contacted some officials at the National Security, they confirmed knowledge of the group and their operations at the Castle.
Also, the claim that the place was closed down in October 2018 is not factual. Manasseh said he and his team were undercover at the facility in December 2018 to film portions of the documentary.
“On the said date – December 7, 2018 - we started the secret filming in the Osu Castle and filmed continuously until we got to the Accra International Conference Centre where they had gone to provide security for an NPP party event.” Joy News will produce the unedited visuals from this even if the Information Minister requests it, because it is not true that the Castle was closed down in October 2018.
“Even on December 21, 2018, the group was there. They held a get-together, brought loud speakers and everything, we filmed it all. So it is not true that the place was closed in October.”
In the second paragraph of the second claim, the Information Minister acknowledges that the garden of the Castle was used by De-Eye group for its activities for “...because its promoter, one Nana Wireko Addo, had been assigned an office there to work with a taskforce to retrieve landed properties and vehicles in the possession of officials of the erstwhile Maharna administration.”
It would seem that while Mr Arhin denied the existence of the group the information minister admitted their existence. in another. In any case, how does a man who is only providing jobs for young men and women being evicted by National Security and Police as the government’s statement claims? And why were these people not arrested and prosecuted if their actions were against the law?
This government’s claim that “Indeed, Nana Wireko Addo left the employ of President Akufo-Addo in 2010, at a time when he was not even presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party. A simple check would have revealed this and ensured an avoidance of the attempt to link his organisation's activities to the President,” is a misrepresnetaiton as Manasseh never linked the gentleman to the president. He stated clearly that Addo was the president’s former bodyguard.
Thirdly, it is important to state for the record that the Castle, Osu, IS NOT a "Security Zone", neither is it an annex of the Presidency. Indeed, it is a facility operated by the Museums and Monuments Board, after President Akufo-Addo, on 5th March, 2017, tasked the Ministry for Tourism, Arts and Culture to spearhead its transformation into a museum. The general public may refer to news items of 5th March, 2017, the date on which President Akufo-Addo gave that directive. Indeed, the castle gardens are also open for use by members of the public. The narrative in Manasseh's promotion, in particular, that connotes the Castle, Osu, as a "Security Zone", which is being used to train militia and vigilantes is most worrying. Indeed, if this group was still operating from the Castle, wouldn't the Commission of Inquiry currently looking into the events at the Ayawaso West Wuogon election have noticed them by now?
Joy News’ response
It is fair to refer to the Castle as an annex of the Presidency as there are agencies of state and four ministers of state operating from there.
Fourthly, the documentary also stated categorically that the young men and women seen in it had been used for security operations in and outside of Accra. One would have expected a list of such operations to be listed in the documentary. Curiously, that was not done. Again, the documentary stressed that members of the group provided security at an event held at the Accra International Conference Centre celebrating the life of Chief S.D. Dombo, an event which was attended by the President, Vice President, former President Kufuor, and key government functionaries. Unfortunately, there Is no evidence in Manasseh's documentary to back this security providing an assertion, beyond his mere say so in the documentary. In essence, what the documentary has done with respect to this point is to create an impression without substantiating it with any evidence. In line with Joy News and Multimedia's own journalistic standards, they, as a media organization, would not accept this from any of their guests on any of their shows. We believe this is unfortunate, and falls short of their own best practices over the years.
Joy News’ response
Joy News has images and videos of these men and women at various corners of the Accra International Conference Centre on the day of the NPP programme. Joy News will produce videos and images to that effect if government requests it.
Lastly, the disingenuous and deliberate attempts to cast the President of the Republic in a negative light, vis-a-vis the fight against vigilantism, exposed . what we now believe to be the real motive of this documentary. President Akufo-Addo made a passionate, sincere appeal to all political parties to disband their vigilante groups on 21st February, 2019, when he delivered to Parliament a Message on the State of the Nation. He reiterated this call on 6th March, 2019, at the 62nd Independence Day Celebration in Tamale. Mischievously, remarks by hosts of programmes on Joy News who sought to "promo" the documentary stated, without a shadow of doubt, that the President was preaching virtue and practicing vice, when, indeed, they knew that their documentary was based on activities captured in 2018 and which had nothing to do with Militias or Vigilantism. This is an unfortunate development, and we are at a loss as to why this highly respected media outlet wilt seek to create this unfounded impression.
Joy News’ response
The Constitution in Article 612 (5) enjoins a company like The Multimedia Group to “… uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of Ghana.”
That article states “all agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this constitution and shall uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people of Ghana.”
And that is Joy News’ only motive.