Gun-wielding agents of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) on Thursday pulled out their guns in the full glare of the public and threatened to kill a journalist who attempted to take photographs of a suspect at the Human Rights Court in Accra.
The fully armed BNI agents, acting as though they were under the influence of a narcotic substance, beat up the journalist, Gifty Lawson, who works with Western Publications, publishers of DAILY GUIDE, while they pointed a gun to her head and put their hands in her panties and private parts as well as grabbed her with a âharbour hookâ as if she had committed an offence.
Two other workers in the employ of Western Publications, Anthony Antwi and Michael Awampaga who went to Giftyâs rescue, were severely beaten up by the BNI operatives as both Gifty and Michael were shoved into waiting vehicles and later detained at the BNI Headquarters. Antwi later escaped from the grips of the operatives.
One of the BNI agents was reportedly heard yelling: âI will shootâ, âI will kill youâ, âI will shootâ, as he pointed his gun at fear-stricken Michael who was immediately handcuffed and bundled into a waiting van.
The reckless show of power at the court premises was so severe that journalists from other media houses who intervened had their share of the assault and one of the journalists even took possession of a handcuff (with serial number 13311) that fell off the body of a BNI agent during the melee.
Gifty was later released with no charges preferred against her after spending a little over an hour in BNI detention; but Michael was not released as at the time DAILY GUIDE went to bed last night.
The BNI agents had laid ambush on the compound of the Accra Human Rights Court and pounced on Gifty when she pulled out her camera to take a photograph of DSP Gifty Mawuenyega Tehoda, deputy Head of the Commercial Crimes Unit of the Police CID, who had been in custody since December 29, 2011, helping in the investigation of how the cocaine exhibit had mysteriously turned into baking soda.
Earlier on Wednesday, Gifty Lawson was assaulted by persons suspected to be relatives of DSP Mawuenyega; but Thursdayâs incident raised questions as to whether both assaults were not from the BNI.
Violent attacks on journalists is becoming rampant as Citi FMâs Richard Mensah, TV3âs Peter Adetor and another journalist working with the Enquirer newspaper have all been assaulted in recent times.
âThe most painful thing is to see your colleague being assaulted when you cannot do anything about it because the attackers are having guns and threatening to shoot… This stupidity cannot happen under any democracy,â Richard Mensah, Citi FMâs Presidential Correspondent who was an eyewitness to the incident told DAILY GUIDE.
The National Media Commission (NMC), in a statement signed by its Chairman Ambassador Kabral Blay-Amihere, condemned the attacks and called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to investigate the issue.
âThis wave of attacks on journalists in their line of duty constitutes a grave danger to media freedoms and undermine Ghanaâs reputation as a beacon of press freedom and media rights in Africa,â Ambassador Blay-Amihere noted.
The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has also joined in condemning the attack and in a statement issued by GJA Vice President, Affail Monney, petitioned the IGP to investigate the matter.
The statement said âthe assault at the court, regardless of its nature is an indication that there are still people and institutions that are not only highly intolerant of the media, but also ready to deal with them ruthlessly and with impunity. This does not augur well for our democracy.â
The statement continued: âWe condemn the attack and call for the immediate release of all those who were arrested at the court premises. We further urge the IGP to call his men at the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) to order.
âThe media are indispensable to the building of democracy. We therefore wish to appeal to all security agencies to educate their personnel on the need to preserve press freedom and freedom of expression and to restrain their men from carrying out such acts of unwarranted attack and intimidation which undermine democracy.
âWe also wish to urge all media personnel, especially, journalists on assignments, not to engage in activities that may bring them into conflict with the law enforcement agencies.â
By Halifax Ansah-Addo