Authorities in Ghana must conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the recent attack and harassment of journalists Stanley Nii Blewu and Joseph Armstrong Gold-Alorgbey, and ensure those responsible are held to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On August 12, in Accra, the capital, a soldier kicked and punched Blewu, a reporter with the privately owned TV3 broadcaster, while he and Gold-Alorgbey, also a TV3 reporter, were covering a local sanitation project, according to the journalists, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and a statement by the Ghana Journalists Association, a local trade group, which CPJ reviewed.
The soldier also confiscated the journalists' camera and phones during the attack, and held them for several hours, Blewu and Gold-Alorgbey told CPJ.
"The violent attack on Stanley Nii Blewu and the seizure of phones and a camera belonging to him and colleague Joseph Armstrong Gold-Alorgbey extend the pattern of Ghana's security forces' disrespect for press freedom," said Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa program coordinator, in New York. "Authorities in Ghana should hold accountable those responsible for this violence and ensure security forces cease harassing journalists."
The incident began after Blewu and Gold-Alorgbey interviewed people at the sanitation site and then approached Tema Lorry police station to film there, the journalists said.
As they approached, a group of police officers and soldiers stopped them and demanded that they delete the footage they had recorded, Blewu told CPJ. When the journalists refused, a soldier who identified himself as "Frimpong" kicked Blewu in his right arm, thighs, and stomach, and then seized Blewu's camera and both journalists' phones, according to Blewu, Gold-Alorgbey, and the GJA statement.
The soldier then left the scene, but the journalists followed him to the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, a nearby municipal government building, in an attempt to retrieve their devices, they told CPJ.
At the assembly, Blewu said that Frimpong again kicked him in the abdomen outside the building and then again inside, in the presence of the assembly's public relations officer, Gilbert Ankrah.
About two hours later, senior TV3 management arrived at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and obtained the journalists' phones and camera, Blewu and Gold-Alorgbey said, adding that photos had been deleted from the camera and they were unsure if the phones had been compromised.
Blewu told CPJ that he did not need to be hospitalized after the attack, but said he has continued to suffer lasting pain in his arm, which has not dissipated after using a medical ointment.
When contacted by CPJ over messaging app, Ankrah told CPJ that he could not comment because the matter was the subject of a military investigation. However, Ghanaian Army spokesperson Aggrey Quarhie told CPJ via messaging app that the matter was a misunderstanding and had been resolved.
CPJ was unable to find contact information for a Ghanaian soldier identified as "Frimpong," and Quarhie declined to provide information about the soldier.
Last month, CPJ documented Ghanaian security forces' acquisition of digital forensics technology capable of breaking into and extracting information from phones and computers, and local journalists' concerns that their devices may be seized and searched.