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GJA President “sorry” for journalist assault comment

President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Affail Monney, has apologised for comments on the assault of a Citi FM journalist by national security operatives.

Even though Mr Monney had criticised handling the situation by the national security, he questioned the journalist’s motive in taking videos at a national security facility.

He suggested that the journalist had breached the ethics of the profession by carrying out the activity in an area designated for no photographs.

Caleb Kudah had gone to capture images of Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) cars that were bought with taxpayers money but grounded for many months leading to deterioration.

However, he was arrested and allegedly beaten up.

According to Mr Monney, he didn’t have sufficient information on the development when he first faulted Caleb.

In a statement on Friday, May 14, in which he sought to make a U-turn, Mr Monney said,” unsurprisingly, my condemnation of the office invasion and physical brutalization was muted while my comment on Caleb’s ethical style was tilted and overly highlighted, obviously to achieve certain sensational ends.

“As a student of leadership, I have learned that a leader is not afraid to change course when confronted with fresh information which challenges his earlier assumptions. As I indicated, the information I had before the interview was scanty.

“I, therefore, render my sincerest apology for any misimpression created that I was insensitive to the plight of the journalists but excited about the excesses by the National Security operatives. Indeed, those excesses pass for wickedness at its most naked nastiness. And I totally denounce them”.

He was of the view that “the ordeal as narrated by the journalists is heart-rending, soul-wrenching, mind-boggling, and earth-shattering.

“The intrinsic value and inherent dignity of the two as human beings were blatantly violated. Their freedom as journalists, too, was scandalously abused. The misbehaviour of the national security operatives can exert a significant chilling effect on the media landscape as a whole.  This must stop. In view of this, I urge the Committee of Enquiry set up by the Ministry of National Security to quickly move into action to impartiality unravel all the circumstances surrounding the issue”.

Why was he apologizing?

Mr Monney received a barrage of criticisms for failing to defend the journalist.

In his interview shortly after the arrest and invasion of the Citi FM premises to arrest another, Mr Monney said Caleb accessed information through a means which violates Article 13 of the GJA Code of Ethics.

“Caleb erred, as far as our ethics is concerned. He clearly breached the ethics relative to Article 13 of our own Code of Ethics, which specifies that journalists should take pictures through fair, straight forward and honest means unless tampered with by national interest.

“His interest here is not so clear. From the face of it, we believe he erred.” the GJA President said.

“Caleb shouldn’t have filmed without permission, and Caleb should have realized that place is a security zone, and in every security zone, the security laws apply. It is a no-go area as far as photography is concerned, and his violation of that regulation might have triggered the overreaction from the security operatives,” he stated.

GJA General Secretary disagrees with Mr Monney

Mr Monney’s comments did not go down well with many in the media fraternity with calls by Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA) for his immediate resignation.

General Secretary of GJA, Kofi Yeboah, believes no ethics were breached because the journalist acted in the interest of the public.

“Insofar as the public/national interest was at stake (as evidenced in his narrative), he was firmly within the bounds of journalism ethics, including Article 13 of the GJA Code of Ethics,” Mr Yeboah said in a post on Facebook.

He stressed that “the nebulous identity of national security cannot, and should not, be allowed to strip the media of its cardinal constitutional mandate under Article 162(5): “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”.

The genesis of the problem

On May 11, 2021, the national security personnel arrested Cit FM journalist Caleb Kudah for filming within the premises of a national security facility designated as a restricted security zone.

Following the arrest, about seven armed national security personnel in pickup trucks invaded Accra-based Citi FM premises to arrest Zoe Abu-Baidoo, a journalist with the Accra-based media organisation with whom Caleb had shared the said video.

The two were then escorted to the National Security office for interrogation, after which they were released.

However, Caleb explained that he was assaulted mercilessly by several men wielding guns while he was handcuffed.

“They seized my phone and pushed me, and I sat on the chair. They [National Security operatives] slapped me from the back. I was trying to appeal to them that they had beaten me enough, but they were just slapping me from the back. I’ll be talking to another one, and someone will just come and slap me from the back,” Caleb narrated in the aftermath of the incident.

 

 

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