Abuja, January 26, 2021 – Ghanaian authorities must investigate the recent detention of three Joy News staffers, and hold to account the soldiers who interfered with their reporting, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On January 16, a group of about 30 military officers at the Apamprama forest reserve in Ghana’s southern Ashanti region detained reporter Erastus Asare Donkor, camera operator Kofi Asare, and driver Michael Sakyi while the three were on assignment for Joy News, a YouTube-based news outlet owned by the Multimedia Group conglomerate, according to Donkor, who spoke to CPJ by phone, and reports by Joy News and the Media Foundation for West Africa, a Ghana-based press freedom group.
The officers seized Donkor’s phone and Asare’s camera, and deleted footage off of one of their memory cards, Donkor told CPJ, adding that they were able to save some of their footage on a second memory card, which was later included in the Joy News report. The soldiers also seized Sakyi’s car keys and broke the vehicle’s windshield and mirrors, according to Donkor and the Joy News report.
The three were released without charge after about five hours, according to Donkor and that report.
“Authorities in Ghana should investigate soldiers’ detention of Joy News staffers Erastus Asare Donkor, Kofi Asare, and Michael Sakyi, and hold accountable those responsible for deleting the team’s reporting footage,” said Muthoki Mumo, CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, in Nairobi. “The government must make clear that the military cannot interfere in the work of the press.”
The reporting team had traveled to the forest with a task force from Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency to report on alleged illegal mining, according to the Joy News report, Donkor, and Multimedia Group’s regional news director Kofi Adu Domfeh, who spoke to CPJ over the phone. Ghanaian Minister of Environment Kwabena Frimpong Boateng had invited the team to cover the task force’s activities, Domfeh said.
The team was documenting the arrests of people allegedly involved in illegal mining when a group of about 30 soldiers arrived, got into an intense argument with the environmental task force members, and detained the reporting team, according to Donkor and the Joy News report.
Donkor told CPJ that after about three hours, he was able to contact Boateng, who then reached out to a senior military official, who ordered the soldiers to release them.
Donkor said that their reporting had exposed what appeared to be a scheme involving Ghanaian soldiers assisting illegal miners, and that he and his colleagues feared reprisal for their work.
CPJ called Boateng, but he said he could not comment on the issue. Ghanaian military spokesperson Aggrey Quarshie told CPJ by messaging app that he was not aware of the incident, and would investigate.