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Beating of journalists must stop!

BY: Abigail Bonsu

Mr Kenneth Ashigbey - The writerI  heard that the security detail at the Ghana Movie Awards assaulted a journalist, in the name of subduing him, because he had crossed the line of some cameras which were filming the event live.

This is so unacceptable and another example of how we in the media, particularly the leadership of this industry, are allowing people to get away with criminal tendencies such as this. I am part of the failure; it has to stop and it begins with all of us saying, Not Again!!. We will not accept this in 2013.

Listening to the response of the event organisers on Joy FM’s Rhythm A-to-Z it was pitiful to say the least, that as event organisers they did not know that they bore ultimate responsibility for the misbehaviour of whoever they employed at the event. The Media Coordinator, though conceded that the security people did not do well, did not see this primitive act to be bad and his response was only an apology.  I would not, if I were present, allow any media person doing his job to be assaulted.

This phenomenon of journalists being beaten whilst working is not new. We have had too many of such incidents this year in particular. Friends of suspects in court beat journalists for taking pictures in public places, police personnel have also beaten us when covering a case of their colleague in court.

In the Volta Region, a Graphic journalist was also beaten. Supporters of political parties have beaten us and destroyed properties of media houses. The list goes on and on.

This must stop and we as Ghanaians should not tolerate this. It is not that journalists are special citizens, but as Ghanaians we should realise that journalists are the mouthpiece of all of us, particularly the voiceless in society. If we allow these journalists to be beaten in the course of their duties, then our freedom of speech and that of the media is gradually being eroded.

I fully support Peace FM to take legal action to seek redress from the courts to ensure that the victim gets justice. The station should go all lengths; Fada Dickson and Kofi Brenya the ball is in your court.

I appeal to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to, in the coming year, get his men to realise that we are partners in development and that the incidence of the police assaulting media people in the course of their duties is unacceptable and must stop.

We are grateful for the apologies rendered when the incidents happened  this year. But next year media owners and media persons will not accept these again. Just as the police do not accept police shooters anywhere in the world, so too will we not accept this phenomenon.

We will also use our weapons, which are the pen and  microphone, to defend ourselves just as the police shoot on sight, when they are attacked. They use their weapons rightfully to defend themselves, and we also have the same right.

 We are entitled to take pictures outside the courts and we will do so. We will go ahead and do our work without fear or favour.

Once we are doing our work rightly, we will not tolerate any impediment and will not capitulate in the face of any force. In the event where people think we are wrong, we do not deserve to be beaten, the law courts are there for people to seek redress. But physical assault we will not accept and we will use all LEGAL means at our disposal to defend ourselves.

The public should help us protect their rights, for once they allow the media to be cowed by any group, be they the police, politicians, suspects, or anybody, then our rights and freedom as a people are under severe treat. So this is a crusade all of us Ghanaians need to support to fight.

I appeal to the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) to step out of the laid-back stature and be aggressive in protecting members of the association and even those who may not be members but operate in the media.

If the leadership of the GJA does not rise up to our defence and protection, the relevance of the association will be called into question.

The National Media Commission also owes it a duty to protect practitioners even as they regulate the way we ply our trade.

Also as media owners and those in charge of media houses, we owe it to the men and women we employ to protect and defend them. Otherwise what moral right do we have to expect them to go out there to look for stories for us to use in our papers, radio  and TV stations, as well as on our websites, for which we make profits for our shareholders.

A General that does not have his men and women at heart  and  protect them is not worth fighting for.  Let’s rise up against the tyranny of the few people on the lunatic fringe who believe that they can use the laws of the jungle to cow us. We will be docile no more, we will show that we are not toothless. We have legal teeth and we will use them to bite.

Article by Kenneth Ashigbey

• The writer is a member of the GJA & Editor-In-Chief at the Graphic Communications Group Ltd

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