At this crucial point of an ever-growing democracy, the military in our part of the world needs a complete redesign. Any string that suggests giving up our basic human rights is not a democratic tenet and should be dismissed.
In the grand scheme of life, democracy does not allow people to keep their mouths shut. On hearing what had happened in La, past events came rushing down my consciousness like a bolt of lightning. We have read and seen a whole range of tortures inflicted on ordinary people.
To name only a handful, the brutal murder of eight (8) people at a coalition centre in Techiman South, as well as other polling centres around Ghana, is still fresh in our minds. I’m taking great care not to turn this into a one-sided debate against journalist brutalities.
I shudder to think whether our armed forces are being used or deployed for peacekeeping or torture. The role of the police service remains at large. Do they preserve what belongs to the civilians or do they rob them of what is rightfully theirs?
My concern has always been why the military is immune from prosecution, even in the face of heinous misbehaviour against civilians. We have come of age all too well to hide emotions under facts. Giving respect to a tough law enforcer rather than those who make and execute laws is absolutely unthinkable. Soldiers have taken on the role of the traditional farm scarecrow, scaring away intruders. We are people, not invaders.
We are citizens of this nation, and as such, we are entitled to its benefits—the democratic tenets. The sheer terror and brutality meted out to journalism as an institution through which the government survives is still in effect. We like to put people in certain positions who, in turn, work against our progress. Fair media coverage must be encouraged. The needless threats to journalists, on the other hand, show that tyranny is ingrained in our political system.
If destroying journalists’ cameras ensures that all camera lenses on any phone or camera in Ghana are tainted, the attacks on journalists will continue. What would happen to Ghana if journalists decided not to work a single day in the country (i.e. no news, no updates, no fact-checks, no fact-findings, and a good dose of what we depend on)? During the assault on the journalist, ostensibly law enforcement agencies battle CCTV cameras and other cameras trained on them. That, to me, speaks volumes about the police service’s abhorrence of the society-created institution-Sociology of Journalism.
The plethora of brutalities inflicted on journalists in their line of work is discouraging young people from pursuing careers as journalists in the near future. In this day and age, I’ve always been intrigued by the apparent torment that journalists face in today’s world. History is no exception. Over the years, we dreaded hearing news of the torture of journalists by the military.
However, the stark reality is otherwise. Journalists are often assaulted on the basis of their profession or in some other public environment. An assault on a journalist, on the other hand, may take the shape of what happened in La during a protest yesterday. Regardless of whether this demonstration is required or not, the matter (land litigation) is before a court of competent jurisdiction. Why is it necessary to use profane language and violence against an agency that sets the agenda, prioritizes matters of public concern, and issues a call to action?
The military seems to have taken law enforcement into its own hands and then flown under the mistaken impression that they are the entire law enforcement system. Even if a journalist trespasses, the law ought to take its course. What law precludes forming a barricade around journalists and assaulting them as far back as the 1992 constitution? The other side of the assault on journalism can take the form of you being targeted in public because of your reputation for some reason whatsoever.
We must find a long-term solution to the never-ending issue of attacks on journalists and ordinary Ghanaians by members of the Executive arm of the government (President, Ministers, and the Police Service). The President must map out a course of action that explicitly warns the police service as to how to handle journalists. Despite the fact that he is a lawyer, the President has long forgotten about his advocacy for justice.
The ministerial appointments in his first term of office had woefully failed the test and court of public opinion. We have had and still have the substantive Ministers of Defence, Interior and National security. The functions of these people occupying the positions should be re-read to them by way of recap. That said, we can keep them in check at all times.
To this end, student journalists say police brutality against journalists must stop to inspire some level of confidence in us to, as it were, carry out our work objectively when we fully take up the profession. Enough of the brutalities!
The writer, Jerry Avornyotse, is a student journalist at the Ghana Institute of Journalism.