On Thursday, May 3, the whole world converged on Ghana to celebrate World Press Freedom Day, a day set aside to celebrate the importance of the role of the media to society and to devise ways and means to empower the media to go about their work without any encumbrances.
Noting the importance of the day, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo, graced the occasion and delivered a powerful speech.
At his party’s headquarters, a journalist from the stables of Multimedia, Ohemaa Sakyiwaa, was allegedly assaulted by one Hajia Fati. The journalist had gone to the headquarters to cover the picking of nomination forms by aspiring party executives.
It was further reported that Mr Sammy Crabbe, the embattled Second Vice Chairman on suspension, had arrived at the premises to pick a form but was restrained by Hajia Fati. In the ensuing melee, Sakyiwaa, who was in the process of taking shots, enraged Hajia and was punched in the mouth by Hajia.
This is a straight assault case and one would have expected that it would be treated as such. Unless we want to believe that now assault has different colours and an assault by a party person is different from an assault by a bookman at the Neoplan station. But what did we hear? There were all manner of calls on the political party in question to issue a disclaimer as if that was the core of the issue. There were also the usual threats by various association and pressure groups. All this while, we were not even aware whether the victim had lodged a complaint with the police.
And this is what is making some of us media watchers a bit worried. Cases of media personnel being assaulted by unscrupulous persons are very common in Ghana. This is even more so with our two major political parties. Unfortunately, anytime it happens, instead of allowing the law to take its natural course, we bring in all manner of issues and eventually the perpetrators are left off the hook. Very recent cases include an assault on the Graphic reporter in Kumasi, the destruction of a recording device of a journalist and the case of a Multimedia journalist currently receiving medical treatment for a fractured skull caused by assault.
In most of these cases, the appropriate agencies and well-meaning individuals, as well as colleagues in the industry have stood behind the victims but the end result has been nothing to discourage like-minded persons.
Though a show of sympathy at such moments is welcome, any semblance of one crying more than the bereaved should not be encouraged as it does not empower such individuals to grow. Then is the other side when such sympathisers end up with eggs in their faces should the victim opt for any other form of settlement. After all, these victims are adults in employment and also it is their bodies which would have suffered and they, therefore, reserve the right to opt for a quiet settlement out of court. And of course, here, financial inducement cannot be ruled out.
Is begging the answer?
Then also is the input of the peacebroker, known in the Akan setting as Dwantuahene, whose job it is to intercede on behalf of sinners. In fact, my grandfather carved a decent career out of this and lived comfortably till a ripe old age. A few tubers of yam, some eggs and schnapps and money were all the sinner needed for the Dwantuahene to go and plead on his behalf. The sinner could commit similar sins if he had a comfortable budget. Trust the Dwantuahene to quote verses from the Bible, especially the popular 77x7 slaps of tolerance and some sayings such as “Wo de as3m ky3 a…” or To err is human. Then also is the role of big men of varied influences. The list goes on and on to the extent that the whole community could turn against the victim and see them as disrespectful if they do not accept to stop seeking redress.
All these put a lot of stress on the victim and if one is not very strong, they are likely to give in to these pressures.
The much-awaited statement condemning the alleged assault from the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has arrived, but it has not assuaged the anger of those who had hoped that it would put the matter to rest. It only amounted to tightening one’s belt in an attempt to halt a bout of diarrhoea.
So long as the laws of the land are not allowed to deal with offenders, I am inclined to believe that such cases will continue to confront us. To those who have been assaulted already, I say sorry and those who will be assaulted in future, my sympathies.
The writer is the Director of Public Affairs, University of Cape Coast. E-mail