BNI Arrest of journalists… Pressure mounts on Akufo-Addo *To address brutalities and attacks against journalists

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NATIONAL security operatives have incurred the wrath of the various media institutions, groups and practitioners for what they described as “unlawful arrest and detention” of the two senior journalists of the popular online news portal, ModernGhana com, Mr.Ajafor Azunungu Emmanuel and Mr.Emmanuel Bretwum.

The raid and subsequent arrest of the two journalists by National Security operatives at the offices of ModernGhana.com at about 3:00pm on Thursday June 27, 2019 has since hightened tension between the national security operatives and media groups, including the Journalists for Business Advocacy (JBA) and the Ghana Water and Sanitation Journalists Network (GWJN).

The latest to join the condemnation wangon was the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG) which expressed shock and dismay of the arrest meted out to Mr Ajarfor and Mr.Bretwum.

In this vain, the PRINPAG appealed to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to personally address brutalities, attacks and threats of deaths on the lives of journalists which was gaining roots in the society of the country.

“We call on the President to take measures to discourage the rising brutalities, threats and attacks to journalists and media practice in Ghana and urge the public to guard against any act that is inimical to the freedom of speech prescribed and guaranteed in the 1992 constitution.

“Such tendencies only erode the huge gains that Ghana has made in the area of Freedom and Independence of the media,” the PRINPAG stated.

The PRINPAG in a statement issued and signed by the President, Mr Edwin  Arthur
Executive Secretary, Nii Laryea Sowah respectively, the association further stressed the need for government, as well as political parties to also publicly condemn these threats and censure ‘their own’ whose utterances and actions tend to support violence against media and journalists.

According to information gathered from media sources, operatives from the National Security stormed the offices of Modern Ghana in mufti and asked that one of its editors, whose name is given as Mr.Ajafor, should step out of the office building for a friendly chat, the statement noted.

The statement indicated that after Mr.Ajafor obliged, he realized that the men who neither had badges nor any warrant whatsoever, intend to arrest him.

“Mr.Ajafor as a matter of precaution decided to retreat to the office door and this led to ascuffle. The National security operatives are alleged to have roughly bundled him into a waiting vehicle,” the statement noted.

Immediately after the alleged assault on Mr. Mr.Ajafor, the statement asserted that a heavily armed police personnel who had been hiding in plain sight moved into action.

The statement mentioned that the officers invaded the news media’s office building and carried away computers.

Subsequently, the statement revealed that after making contacts with the National security Minister, a delegation from PRINPAG was directed to the command center of the national security outfit which the two gentlemen were being kept.

Upon reaching the command center, the statement noted that the PRINPAG Executives were told the senior officers in charge had gone home and that they could not be allowed to speak with their detained colleagues without their permission.

According to the statement, Minister had assured the PRINPAG delegation that the two journalists would be released by close of day, Friday 28th June 2019.The two, had since been released.

In their interaction with the Minister, the statement noted that Mr Kan Dapaah, he disclosed that the two journalists were being held for allegedly hacking into the online servers of their competitors and that they have been under the national security radar for a while.

According to the statement, the PRINPAG has learnt rather unfortunately that the arrest coincides with a publication by the ‘Modern Ghana’ about the National Security Minister, Kan Dapaah.

In a statement, the government said that the operation was conducted based on a tip that a group affiliated to Modern Ghana is using the facility for cybercrime targeting media houses and corporate organizations.

The statement added that they hack into emails and servers of competing websites and newsrooms and intercept stories for their own use.

It said the Chief Exercutive Officer (CEO) of ModernGhana,Mr Bright Owusu has described the allegations as ‘rubbish’.

Coming at the heels of recent reported attacks on journalists and media houses in the country and the assassination of Ace Investigative Journalist, Ahmed Hussain Suale, the statement noted the PRINPAG further sees the incidence as an attack on the media practice/freedom and independence in Ghana.

“While PRINPAG does not condone any form of irresponsible media practice, the Association wishes to remind all institutions of the need to recognize the work of media practitioners as necessary for the development of the nation’s democracy.

“And that any direct or indirect attempt to intimidate the media in the course of their work is an indictment on the efforts that the country is thriving very hard to make in its democratic dispensation,” the statement said.

The PRINPAG in the statement called on the National Security Outfit to respect the constitutional assurance in chapter 5 (14) (2) of the 1992 constitution which states that a person who is arrested, restricted or detained shall be informed immediately, in a language that he understands, of the reasons for his arrest, restriction or detention and of his right to a lawyer of his choice.

The stressed said thevPRINPAG is concerned that National Security unduly kept the journalists in detention for such a long time without following due process.

In this regard, the statement futher called on the National Security to ensure due process is followed while they undertake any legitimate investigations that they wish to make.

The statement urged the national security to avoid or refrain from actions or inactions that does not protect and guarantee the safety of journalists in the country.

The statement further entreated the national security to caution its operatives to treat media practitioners and all other Ghanaians with dignity and within the confines of civility and where they ought to exercise discretion exercise it in a fair, reasonable and just manner.

“We also want the national security to take steps to update the public on all other investigations and actions being taken by state security apparatus in relation to assault and unfair harassment of media practitioners including the status of investigations into the murder of investigative journalist, Mr Ahmed Hussain Suale,’ the statement charged.

Source:Freeman KORYEKPOR AWLESU

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