The government, through the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah has a complaint at the National Media Commission (NMC) against Joy News over its latest documentary ‘MIlitia in the heart of the Nation’.
Below is a copy of the full complaints and the recommended sanctions.
Offensive Documentary By Joy News Entitled “Militia in the heart of the Nation”
Respectfully, the Government of Ghana brings this complaint pursuant to article 167(b) of the Constitution as well as section 2(1) (b) of the National Media Commission Act, 1993 (Act 449) and invites you to investigate the publication, the subject matter of this complaint.
Specifically, the impugned publication is a twenty-two (22) minute Joy News documentary titled “Militia in the heart of the Nation”, which was aired in the evening of Thursday, 7th March, 2019. Subsequently, parts of the said documentary were aired on Joy FM, Adom FM, Asempa FM, and the various affiliates of Joy FM, Adom FM and Asempa FM at various times around the country. The documentary was prepared by Manasseh Awuni Azure, a journalist with Multimedia Broadcasting Company Limited (Multimedia). Attached herewith and marked Exhibit MOI 1is a copy of the impugned publication.
The narrative of the 22-minute documentary stated emphatically that a “militia” had been uncovered training and operating at a “Security Zone”, with the complicity of the Government of Ghana, and identified them as belonging to the New Patriotic Party. The alleged Security Zone was identified as the Christianborg Castle, Osu, Accra. The “militia” was also named as De-Eye Group (hereinafter referred to as the “company”).
Further, the documentary stated categorically that the young men and women shown in it had been used for security operations in and outside Accra, and that, members of the group provided security at an event held at the Accra International Conference Centre celebrating the life of Chief S.D. Dombo, an event which was attended by the President, Vice President, former President Kufuor, and key government functionaries.
A careful examination of the contents of the impugned publication discloses that the first six (6) minutes, twenty (20) seconds of the documentary are about matters totally unconnected to the advertised subject matter of the documentary. They largely showed images from the violence witnessed at the recent Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election, which is the subject matter of an inquiry by a Commission of Inquiry set up pursuant to article 278 of the Constitution (the Emile Short Commission).
Personnel from the Ghana Police Service and National Security Council Secretariat using a Ghana Police vehicle are seen engaged in a violent confrontation with some people in an area at the Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency. The attempt by Manasseh Awuni and Multimedia to portray the company as being engaged in the perpetration of acts seen in the first 6 minutes and 20 seconds of the documentary, or similar thereto only exposes the mischief with which the documentary was laced and does little credit to the reputation of a media house that prides itself as independent and guided by the ethics of the media profession.
We bring this complaint because the substance of the story complained of, is in various material essentials, utterly false, a product of gross misrepresentation of facts, wild speculation by the producer of the documentary specified above, and same betrays a desperate attempt on the part of Multimedia and Manasseh Awuni to vilify the sincere effort by the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to end the worrying phenomenon of political vigilantism in the country.
Indeed, the story has the effect of tarnishing the image of the country, dampening investor interest, causing disaffection for the President of the Republic, and undermining efforts at curbing vigilantism in Ghana.
We proceed to set out a few particulars of the untruths and dishonesty in the documentary.
- Wildly, the documentary describes the activity engaged in by the said organisation as operating a “militia in the heart of the nation” with the complicity of the current New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration. A militia is defined as a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.
Nothing in the impugned documentary shows any activity by the said company bordering on a militia exercise. The images in the documentary show a group of men and women dressed up in white shirts and black suits in meetings with officials of the company. There is absolutely no image of any use of force let alone display of a weapon by any of the men and women captured in the documentary. The suggestion that a militia is being grown in the Castle is nothing but an unnecessary endeavour on the part of the producer to cause undue apprehension and panic among the citizenry. Same is plainly untruthful, a deliberate and dishonest misrepresentation of facts and malicious. The function of ethical journalism is to be fair and strict to the facts and not a polish misrepresentation of facts.
- In the advertisement of the documentary, the producer - Manasseh Awuni suggested the undertaking of a fearsome training exercise by some young men and women and backed it up with photos of masked men wielding assault rifles.
Remarkably, contrary to what was advertised in the “promo”, the documentary itself failed to show any such training exercises taking place or masked men wielding weapons. This is most unprofessional and misleading.
It is very instructive to note that the images of the masked men featured in the advertisement or “promo” to the documentary, are those lifted from a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) publication of an article titled “LETTER FROM AFRICA - HEROES AND VILLAINS OF NIGERIA’S PARLIAMENT SIEGE”. Attached herewith and marked Exhibits MOI 2 and MOI 3 are copies of the JOYNEWS promotion and said BBC publication.
- The documentary deliberately omitted to state the material fact that National Security Council Secretariat had closed down the purported office of the company since October 2018. Indeed, as of the date of publication of the documentary in March 2019, there was no activity of whatsoever nature by the company at the Castle. At the time of airing the documentary, multimedia played it to create the false impression to the public that such a false activity was ongoing at the premises of the Osu Castle. The mischief at the time of airing was to muddy the waters at the same time when the President was taking steps to sanitize the Political environment off all acts of “vigilantism”.
- The assertion that the Castle, Osu, is an annex of the Presidency, being used as a “Security Zone”, to train militia and vigilantes is sensationalism of the highest order. The facts show that since March 2017, the Castle, Osu, HAS NOT been a “Security Zone”, neither has it been an annex to the Presidency.
It is a facility operated by the Museums and Monuments Board, after President Akufo-Addo, on 5th March 2017, tasked the Ministry for Tourism, Arts and Culture to spearhead its transformation into a museum.
Indeed, the castle gardens are also open to members of the public. Attached herewith and marked Exhibit MOI 4 is a copy of news publication on www.mvioyonline.com, an affiliate of JOY NEWS, on 5th March, 2017, proving same. Why JOYNEWS will be privy to this fact and proceed to publish in March 2019 that it is a security zone being now used for training militia is disingenuous.
Also attached is EXHIBIT MOI 5, a statement issued by the Museums and Monuments Board dated 11th March, 2019 reminding the public of same.
- The documentary asserts that the persons seen in it had been used for security operations in and outside of Accra.
Curiously, no specification of such operations was done in the documentary. This is highly unprofessional.
- The documentary alleged that members of the group provided security at an event held at the Accra International Conference Centre celebrating the life of Chief S.D. Dombo, an event attended by the President, Vice President, former President Kufuor, and key government functionaries.
No evidence was presented to back this assertion.
- The documentary shows an answer to a question asked of the Director of Communications at the Office of the President, Mr. Eugene Arhin. The producer mischievously does not show the question asked Mr. Eugene Arhin but shows only the supposed answer. One is left in no position to tell the specific question Mr. Eugene Arhin was answering.
This, once again, is mischievous and calculated at misleading the public.
- Seriously, the producer of the documentary throughout the 22-minute piece, presents absolutely no evidence of any militia activity by any group, let alone evidence of support from the ruling NPP administration. However, he makes categorical assertions to that effect.
We consider this as a dishonest misrepresentation of material facts with underlying ill motives. A journalist is required to present facts and/or make comments which constitute a reasonable inference from established facts. The palpable failure to establish the most basic of facts supporting the wild allegations by Manasseh Awuni, i.e. the training of a militia at the Castle, hugely discredits the work as ill-motivated and malicious.
There are available videos aired by TV3 on some activities of the said company as far back as 2017 that showed how the said company preached against violence and encouraged groups to find jobs for their members rather than indulging in acts of violence. EXHIBIT MOI 6. Attached shows the TV3 news item.
- Sight cannot be lost of the disingenuous endeavour to cast aspersions on the integrity of the President of the Republic in the fight against vigilantism.
President Akufo-Addo made a passionate, sincere and well-received appeal to all political parties to disband their vigilante groups on 21st February, 2019, when he delivered to Parliament a Message on the State of the Nation. He reiterated this call on 6th March 2019, at the 62nd Independence Day Celebration in Tamale. Mischievously, remarks by hosts of programmes on Joy News in promoting the documentary accused the President of preaching virtue and practicing vice, when, indeed, they knew that the impugned documentary established no vigilante or militia activity whatsoever and was based on civil activities captured in 2018.
The documentary deliberately omitted to admit that, by the time of the publication, Government had, as indicated above, taken steps to close down the office used by the owner of the company for the stated purpose •of the company. This material omission leaves the unsuspecting public with the false impression that Government was secretly promoting the activity while the President sought by the public statements to portray himself as determined to root out the troubling phenomenon of political vigilantism.
We view the impugned documentary as part of the unbounded calumny by Manasseh Awuni Azure, Joy News and its affiliates aimed at distorting Government policy and work on serious matters of national concern like the fight against vigilantism. Much as the undeniable track record of the President shows a selfless dedication to the defence of press freedom and human rights, irresponsible and unethical journalism threaten the democracy and peace of the nation.
In accordance with section 15 of Act 449, we pray your outfit for the following reliefs:
- A declaration to the effect that the impugned documentary by Manasseh Awuni Azure and Joy News is misleading and constitutes a dishonest and deliberate misrepresentation of facts and calculated at causing undue public apprehension, alarm and panic;
- An order for the retraction of and apology to the Government of Ghana on the contents of the said documentary referred to above;
- Further disciplinary measure(s) as your Commission may seem fit.
It is our sincerest hope that this complaint will be seriously investigated by the Commission in accordance with journalistic standards published by the Commission as well as the ethics of the media profession.
We are counting on your co-operation and stand ready to assist in your investigations into the publication complained of, including the issues raised above.