A story of two video recordings, and the irony

BY: Ajoa Yeboa-Afari

As if Prophet Kobi’s recent, insulting and controversial remarks about women of certain ethnic groups were not bad enough, causing much offence, there is another ugly aspect of that scandal.

I’m referring to what happened to a Daily Graphic reporter in the prophet’s church when she was sent there to cover a related event.   

And I’m not talking about the hostility of the church members, with one woman reportedly even brandishing a weapon.

My focus is the conduct of two policemen, apparently on duty at the church, who evidently viewed the visitor as an enemy of the church and therefore someone to be overpowered. Clearly they saw it as their duty to protect the image of the Prophet and his church.

The sequence of events follows:

On Sunday, August 4, 2019, a group of placard-wielding women, clad in protest red, marched to the church of Prophet Emmanuel Badu Kobi, the founder and leader of the Glorious Wave International Church at Sakumono, near Tema.

The women were there to demonstrate vehemently against the infamous comments the Prophet had made in a sermon on July 28, a video of which has been widely circulated on social media, warning men not to marry Asante, Fante or Ewe women. He said bluntly that women from those tribes are not suitable as marriage partners.

Despite calls from many quarters, including religious bodies, for him to apologise, the Prophet has refused to do that. 

That Sunday, when a Daily Graphic Tema reporter Della Russel Ocloo arrived at the church to cover the demonstration, she was too late as the women had already finished their demonstration and had left. Then after the sermon by Prophet Kobi what she saw was of interest so she started video recording it.

What she was recording was some worshippers kneeling before Prophet Kobi and “caressing his shoes”, the paper reported. However, she was accosted by an official of the church, identified later as ‘Amofa’, who asked her to delete what she had recorded.

A man who identified himself as a national security operative, and two policemen at the church who intervened, also demanded that she should delete the recording.

Amofa and some of the church members surrounded her, insisting that she should delete the video recording. Other church members tried to attack her physically.

Not only that, Ms Ocloo said, a woman actually brought out a baton with a nail on it and said: “Ah, she is alone. Even if we hurt her no one will know about it. Let’s terrify her to send that as a warning to the others.” 

She said the two policemen forcibly took her phone away from her on the way to the Sakumono Police Station, where she was detained for about two hours.  

“It took the intervention of some senior police officers to secure her release,” the paper said.

Ms Ocloo has since lodged a formal complaint of assault at the Sakumono Police Station against the two policemen and the church members. 

Obviously, to the policemen, supposed peacekeepers, they owed the reporter no duty of care, or protection or consideration. They were only concerned, as usually happens, with showing a vulnerable civilian ‘where power lies’. 

Interestingly, in a reaction to the incident and the detention of Ms Ocloo, the Public Relations Officer of the Accra Regional Police Command, DSP Effia Tenge,  told the Graphic that some church members had called the police after Ms Ocloo had refused to hand over her phone to them.

DSP Tenge said to save her from potential harm, the police “rushed to the scene, rescued Ms Ocloo and took her to the Sakumono Police Station”.

I have spoken with Ms Ocloo and from what she told me, clearly the policemen were on an intimidation offensive.  The Station Officer kept asking her if she had a “permit to film” in the church, threatening her with detention in a cell until she could be “processed for court”.

As for DSP Tenge’s version, it is clearly a Public Relations perspective. Ms Ocloo told me that she was quite astonished to learn about the DSP’s explanation. Furthermore, as at Monday this week when I spoke with Ms Ocloo, DSP Tenge had not even contacted her to know her side of the story.

Perhaps the Sakumono policemen were not aware that they were dealing with a journalist. Otherwise they might have remembered that when policemen treat journalists as enemies who must be cowed into submission, the journalists for their part will never keep such a confrontation secret. Furthermore, if the Police Service is shown in a negative light, it could lead to sanctions by Police Headquarters – and possible career consequences.

The most recent example is that of the policemen who assaulted some journalists of the Ghanaian Times newspaper in March this year. It resulted in the interdiction of some of them. That case, too, involved the insistence of the policemen that a video recording should be deleted.

Thus at a recent media forum, the right of the police to demand deletion of a video recorded in a public space came up for discussion. When I sought clarification from a senior police officer, he confirmed what had been made known at the forum. He said:

“The police have no right to ask anybody to delete a recording on their phone … they have no right to confiscate anybody’s phone. There is no law against filming a policeman in a public space.”      

My question: likewise, is a church not a public space?  

Surely, even if the church members were ignorant, the two policemen should have known better. And what about their superior, the Station Officer in charge of the Sakumono Police Station? 

Apparently the Sakumono police saw themselves more as allies of Prophet Kobi than professionals, peace officers. Otherwise why the detention and threats?

Anyway, it is understood that the Police Administration is investigating the matter. We look forward to the findings.

But how ironical that the church members were so angry about somebody videoing an aspect of their church service when it was through a video of a sermon in that same church that their Prophet gained social media prominence, and which he clearly relishes!

Or could it be that although Prophet Kobi has refused to apologise, some members of his church accept that their Prophet ‘didn’t speak well’ and were therefore afraid of more public outrage from another video? 

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