OneGhana Movement, a non-governmental organisation has condemned the arrest and torture of some journalists working with ModernGhana, an online news portal.
This comes after three editors of the media firm were picked up by National Security operatives on Thursday, June 27, 2019 afternoon. It is not clear what may have caused the arrest, but sources close to the journalists say they may have been arrested for a story they published that sought to put the Akufo-Addo government under a bad light.
But in a statement issued on Monday, July 1, 2019, vehemently detesting the raid and arrest of the trio who were tortured as reported and also called on the government to act upon the issue.
Below is the full statement:
ONEGHANA MOVEMENT CONDEMNS ARREST AND TORTURE OF MODERNGHANA JOURNALISTS
The OneGhana Movement has learnt with utter shock and horror, the harrowing ordeal meted out to two (2) journalists, Emmanuel Ajarfor Abugri and Emmanuel Britwum, both of ModernGhana, an online news outlet, by the National Security.
We condemn in no uncertain terms the torture of these journalists. We also condemn the disturbing trend of threats, intimidation and attacks which do not only leave journalists feeling unprotected and vulnerable, but also feeds into the degenerating global outlook for press freedom in Ghana.
Media reports indicate that on Thursday 27th June 2019, a group of gun-wielding men purported to be National Security Operatives stormed the offices of ModernGhana and arrested the two (2) journalists.
This arrest followed two (2) publications made by their news outfit on the National Security Minister, Mr. Albert Kan Dapaah. They were asked to pull down the publications, which they did. However, the operatives raided their office, seized some laptops and carted the two journalists off to a location later identified to be the National Security Secretariat, where they were tortured with electric shocks and also subjected to physical brutality in an attempt to force them either reveal their source(s), or to admit to using pseudo names to concoct stories.
“I received no less than 20 slaps,” Mr. Ajarfor told OneGhana Movement. “Two people were doing the slapping and the electric torturing. They even tortured my ears with the electric shocker.”
Mr. Ajarfor continued: “They made me lie down backward on my hand with the handcuff and asked [me to rise up]. The second part was the military punishment. They made me lean against a wall my legs up and my hands down as if am doing press up. One hit me with a dying blow and I fell. It was a lot. I cried like a new born baby begging that I am innocent.”
We are aware of news reports of government statements suggesting that these journalists were arrested for allegedly engaging in illicit activities against competing media organizations. But according to the journalists, the claim of hacking into accounts of competitor media houses never came up during their detention and interrogation at the National Security Secretariat.
According to Article 162 (4) of the Constitution, “Editors and publishers of newspapers and other institutions of the mass media shall not be subject to control or interference by Government, nor shall they be penalized or harassed for their editorial opinions and views, or the content of their publications.”
Article 162 (5) also stipulates that: “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.”
It is totally unacceptable that in the 21st Century and in the 17th year of the 4th Republic of Ghana, journalists are captured with black polythene bags over their heads, sent to a location unknown to them and subjected to long hours of torture by electric shock and physical brutality over publications on their platform, in clear contravention of Article 162 of the constitution.
- The National Security Minister should as a matter of urgency, thoroughly investigate this inhumane canker within his rank and file and bring the perpetrators to justice. Failure to do so should result in him tendering his resignation.
- Government should then commission an independent investigation into the reports of torture of the ModernGhana journalists, and ensure that investigations are conducted thoroughly, impartially and promptly to serve as a deterrent.
- Government should ensure that any Security Operatives who are found culpable will be held accountable for their involvement in the attacks.
- Government should work on, and adopt a national Action Plan with the sole purpose of safeguarding freedom of expression and safety of journalists, by protecting journalists primarily, and other groups, against threats and attacks.
- Civil Society and the Government must collaborate to promote media literacy among security agencies and the general public to ensure that society can understand and stand up in favour of the safety of journalists and the average Ghanaian, and ultimately, help prevent incidents of security service attacks on the citizenry.
Emily Kanyir Nyuur