SPEAKING FOR THE VOICELESS : THE ONLY CRIME OF JOURNALISTS?

Police hitting Journalist
A journalist been brutalized by police officers.

A voiceless fellow can’t speak out what’s eating him up from within, right?
Neither does he have the confidence to authoritatively buttress on certain concerns publicly. But, his voice is being heard much louder than he could ever imagine. His voice could travel as far as reaching the tables of our leaders. Quite astonishing, isn’t it?

Come to think of it, how is this possible?
This is when the civic, ethical, and professional responsibility of a journalist comes to bear.

A journalist’s first responsibility and loyalty are to its citizens. The journalist unintentionally neglects the warm hugs and love from family to the interest of his people – gathering, investigating, accessing, and disseminating information which is of positive impacts to the society.

A sense of responsibility, accuracy, truthfulness, impartiality, and ability to bring to light the hidden things of the dark, are some of the major traits of a journalist.

Unfortunately, the lives of these journalists are in question!
Their ethical standards and the constitution of Ghana grants them the audacity to carry out their job responsibilities as equally as doctors, lawyers, bankers, etc.

So, therefore, why are they brutalized in the course of their duties?

On March 27, 2018, one of Ghana’s upcoming and fearless journalist, Latif Idris, was brutally beaten to near death at the headquarters of the Ghana Police Service. The journalist, who works with a multimedia group, was not beaten by thugs but, by Police personnel. The same people he would run to if he had been attacked by hoodlums.

What was his crime? For doing his job as a journalist by asking the Police officers a question on maintaining law and order?

Journalism has the power, both to blow things out of proportion and to sweep them under the rug. Notwithstanding these incontrovertible facts, Journalists shouldn’t be placed in a situation where these unethical ways of carrying their duties will be their totem.

The profession of journalism is a public and social occupation. Journalists as professionals both support and sustain the credibility of the decision-making system of a country and help maintain it’s functions.

A journalist’s crucial role in helping democratic function is sometimes forgotten, amid the clamor of partisan debate and the messy nature of the profession.
But, anyone who steps to examine recent examples of journalistic success and the substantial civic impacts of various investigations, cannot help but be impressed by the vital role of the press.

As many journalistic outlets continue to struggle financially, there can be little doubt that many problems in society might be forgotten, were it not be for some smart, persistent, and courageous journalists.

Journalists continue to be vulnerable to brutal attacks, which are perpetrated by gross impunity. Below are some incidents of attacks on journalists from January 2017 to date:

February 27, 2017 – Kotoko Express Reporter Attacked
March 5, 2017 – Photo Journalist Attacked, Expelled From Stadium
March 6, 2017 – Soldiers Attack A Freelance Journalist
June 27, 2017 – Journalist Physically Attacked, Equipment Seized
July 2, 2017 – TV3 Crew Attacked
July 3, 2017 – Photo Journalist Assaulted, Camera Destroyed
October 10, 2017 – Chief Assaults Journalists Over Whatsapp Criticism
October 18, 2017 – Newspaper Office Attacked By Rampaging Youth
December 2, 2017 – Thugs Storm Radio Justice (Tamale) and attack Presenter
December 21, 2017 – Political Party Security Guards Physically Assault Journalists

January 9, 2018, Myjoyonline’s Photojournalist, was heckled by a police officer outside the Accra High Court.

February 23, 2018, a policeman brutalized Christopher Kevin Asima, a presenter of A1 Radio in Bolgatanga while he was covering a fire outbreak incident.

March 27, 2018, Joy News Journalist was attacked by policemen at the police CID Headquarters in Accra.

On May 4, 2018, Ohemaa Sakyiwaa of Adom FM was slapped by a supporter of the NPP at the party’s headquarters.

September 12, 2018, a Joy Business reporter and TV3 journalist were both manhandled by staff of embattled gold dealership firm, Mangold, when clients besieged one of their premises to demand locked up funds.

 

October 27, 2018 – Party Vigilantes Assault Journalist
October 29, 2018, Joy News’ Journalist was slapped by a member of the security detail of former President John Mahama.

January 16, 2019 – Ahmed Hussein Suale was shot dead by three unknown assailants.

March 14, 2019 – 10 Police Officers attack 3 Ghanaian Times Newspaper Journalists.

5 April 2020 – Yusuf Abdul-Ganiyu, Managing Director of Zuria FM and Deutsche Welle correspondent was attacked and beaten by a member of the security forces.

 

Sadly from all the incidents listed above and several others, little or no perpetrators have been incarcerated. This culture of impunity for crimes against journalists only emboldens perpetrators and encourages others to abuse journalists at the least opportunity.

Did you know?
  • 495 journalists were killed between 2014 and 2018, an 18% increase over the previous 5-years.
  • Only 131 cases of journalists’ killings are reported as being resolved since 2006, representing an overall impunity rate of 88%.
  • Beyond fatal attacks, journalists endured other violations such as a physical attack, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, imprisonment, and torture.
  • Harassment and other harmful acts are increasingly prevalent in the online sphere and are especially dire for women journalists.
  • Syria was the most dangerous country for journalists, followed by Mexico and Afghanistan.
  • The Arab States region, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific account for more than three-quarters of killings.

In the past fourteen years (2006-2019), close to 1,200 journalists have been killed worldwide, for reporting the news and bringing information to the public. In nine out of ten cases, the killers go unpunished.

Many of these reported crimes go ‘un-investigated’ or end with the mere pronouncement by the Police to the effect that investigations have commenced.

This has become a priority since journalists’ safety is evidence of press freedom which is a critical part of the human rights-based approach to development – an approach that makes up the 17 goals and 169 targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) launched in 2015.

“Society needs to defend journalists and ensure press freedom if they are, to be honest with themselves. Having a society without media operating in full-liberty is nothing more than a fake democracy”, MEP Francis Zammit Dimech.

”If we do not protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and make evidence-based decisions is severely hampered.  When journalists cannot do their jobs in safety, we lose an important defense against the pandemic of misinformation and disinformation that has spread online.” –UN Secretary-General António Guterres

I, therefore, call on all stakeholders to help address the aforementioned challenges as a matter of exigency in order to improve the safety of the journalistic conditions in Ghana and beyond.

My name is Arafat Musah, I’m a Journalist and not a Criminal!

Credit: UNESCO, journalistsresource.org, mediaguide.fi, maltaIndepedent, graphiconline myjoyonline, citifmonline.

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