Subjected to a barrage of strident public criticism over the past two weeks after a brutal assault on a group of journalists by some police officers, the Ghana Police Service (GPS) has responded positively by interdicting the officers involved.
On March 14, 2019, a police officer riding a motor bicycle hit and broke the side mirror of a car carrying three journalists from The Ghanaian Times newspaper who were on their way to cover an event. When the journalists confronted him, the policeman was joined by other police officers to assault them.
The assault on the journalists raised a huge outcry from the media and civil society, including the MFWA, urging the police to investigate the matter and punish the culprits. Fortunately, the police have reacted positively by suspending the offending officers pending further investigations. They are Inspector Isaac Opare of the Ministries Divisional Police, Sergeant Ebenezer Akrofi of Accra Regional Police Headquarters and Corporal Evans Kofi Ntim of the Police Visibility Unit in Accra.
A statement signed by the Director-General of the Public Affairs Directorate of the Ghana Police Service (GPS), ACP David Eklu, on March 19, 2019, said the Inspector-General Police (IGP), David Asante Apeatu, has also directed the Accra Regional Crime Officer to take over the investigation of the incident from the Ministries' Police Station.
"Additionally, the Police Professional and Standard Bureau (PPBS) has also been directed to look into the conduct of the Police officers who were on duty at the Ministries Police Station when the incident was reported," the statement added.
The MFWA welcomes the action of the Police Administration as positive and indicative of the authorities' commitment to dealing with errant officers who assault civilians and journalists arbitrarily.
This decision by the police authorities demonstrates a new resolve by the police to build bridges with the media fraternity. In line with this new resolve, the Police Administration is collaborating with key media stakeholders in Ghana to adopt a Framework on Police-Media Relations and Safety of Journalists aimed at improving relations between the two institutions and protecting the safety of journalists. The media stakeholders include the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the Ghana Journalists' Association (GJA), the National Media Commission (NMC), Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), Editors' Forum Ghana, Ghana Community Radio Network, (GCRN) and the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG).
The process, which began in July 2018, was part of recommendations adopted at a joint-forum organised by the MFWA and the Ghana Police Service (GPS) to address police brutality against journalists. It was also against the background of several violations against journalists that had gone without any investigation and prosecution, a situation that created a perception of lack of commitment on the part of the police to protect journalists.
As part of the process, the Police Public Affairs Directorate on March 21, 2019, hosted a meeting with the media stakeholders involved in the development of the Framework on Police-media Relations and Safety of Journalists at the GPS National Headquarters in Accra to discuss and review the draft Framework.
The Framework which is currently being finalised is will be submitted to the Police Management Board (POMAB) for approval and eventual adoption. The document is expected to enhance police-media relations, and promote and protect the safety of journalists, and reduce impunity in Ghana.
The MFWA commends the efforts of the GPS to create a better working relationship with the media and to ensure a safer environment for journalists to carry out their work, and we reiterate our commitment to supporting the process.