The Western Region branch of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has strongly condemned the manhandling of the regional cameraman for Metro TV, Alhaji Mustapha Ashley, by a bodyguard of Member of Parliament for Evalue-Jomoro-Gwira Constituency and Minister State at the Presidency Catherine Afeku at the premises of the Axim Court House.
The GJA is also bemused that video footages, of the court premises, were deleted from Mustapha Ashley’s camera “under supervision of the police” at his blind side.
A statement issued by the Association’s Western Region Secretary, Zambaga Rufai Saminu, recounting events leading to the assault and subsequent deletion of video footages of Mr. Ashley, said the cameraman, Alhaji Mustapha Ashley, was among other journalists covering a court case involving Seth Afeku, the husband of the Evalue-Ajomoro-Gwira MP, and one Angate Borzar, who was arrested on the orders of Mr. Afeku.
“Preliminary investigations conducted by the regional GJA revealed that before the commencement of the court proceedings, the Metro TV Cameraman, Alhaji Mustapha Ashley, was taking video footage outside the court premises to support his story since recordings or picture/video inside the courtroom is not allowed.”
According to the statement, Mr. Ashley only began shooting outside the court after explicit approval from the court’s registry.
It continued that without any provocation, the said bodyguard identified as Appiah, who arrived in the company of the MP & Minister of State, Mrs Catherine Afeku, and her husband as well as the Municipal Chief Executive, Frank Okpenyan, “upon seeing the cameraman with his camera, rushed, interrupted him and ordered him to hand over to him his Metro TV branded video camera to him”.
The refusal of Alhaji Mustapha Ashley to hand over his official camera to the bodyguard resulted in a fierce confrontation and heckling, which attracted the intervention of a policeman present at the court premises.
Another senior officer, who arrived at the scene, asked the cameraman to hand over the camera to the junior police officer, which he did.
What the Association finds disturbing is the fact that while the incident was unfolding, the Member of Parliament for Evalue-Jomoro-Gwira Constituency and Minister State and MCE were at the scene, looking on unconcerned and gracefully walked to take their positions in the courtroom.
Alarming enough, “after the camera was handed back to the Metro TV Cameraman after the court proceedings, all visuals on the camera were deleted under the supervision of officers of the Ghana Police Service and offered no explanation as to why they tampered with the Metro TV Camera,” the statement said.
It reminded the police and the minister of state that “we are in a democratic era and therefore the era of tyranny and ‘political Khakistocracy’ belongs to the past”.
The Association added: “More disturbing is the fact that after recent adaptation of a framework on Police Media Relations and safety of Journalists in the country, the Axim Police supervised the seizure and deletion of a reporter’s professional work, stressing the action could not be anything less than an attack on press freedom.
“We know that the cameraman, Alhaji Mustapha Ashley with many years of experience followed the court reporting protocols when it comes to court reporting even to the extent of seeking clearance,” the statement noted.
The Association called on the Regional Commander to investigate the said senior officer on why he ordered the reporter to hand his camera to the junior officer.
“We also want to know who deleted the video footage from the Metro TV Camera and why?”
The Association also demanded that the identity of the said bodyguard be established, arrested and made to face the law for abuse of power and ensure that such perpetrators of violations against journalists are punished.
The Association encouraged its members to remain steadfast and not to be cowed by the unfortunate incident and go about their duties while adhering to all the laid down ethics of the profession.
By Eric Yaw Adjei|3news.com|Ghana