Cape FM reporter David Kobbena falls to the ground while being attacked by about 15 people, several of whom were wearing pro-New Patriotic Party T-shirts, while covering an event at the party’s offices on January 4, 2024. (Photo courtesy: David Kobbena)

CPJ calls for probe into attack on Ghana radio journalist David Kobbena at ruling NPP office

Abuja, January 26, 2024—Authorities in Ghana should credibly investigate an attack on Cape FM morning show host David Kobbena at the offices of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

About 15 people, several of whom were wearing pro-NPP T-shirts, confronted and assaulted Kobbena while he was covering a vetting exercise at the office of the Central Regional Minister, who is a member of the NPP, on January 4, 2024, in the central Cape Coast region, according to news reports and Kobbena, who spoke to CPJ by phone.

Kobbena told CPJ that he reported the incident to police that same day and provided officers with pictures of three suspects involved in the attack but had not received any updates as of January 26.

“The attack on David Kobbena is a worrying sign for the safety of journalists covering politics in Ghana as the country prepares for its December 2024 general elections,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal, from New York. “Authorities should credibly investigate Kobbena’s assault and end the disturbing trend of impunity for attacks on the press in Ghana. The New Patriotic Party should also take appropriate disciplinary action if any of its members were involved in the attack and guarantee that journalists can cover its events safely.”

Kobbena said that he was confronted by two women dressed in T-shirts branded with a picture of NPP parliamentarian Mavis Hawa Koomson shortly after he arrived at the party’s offices to cover the vetting of candidates to run for parliament in this year’s elections. The women mistook Kobbena for another journalist and accused him of insulting Komsoon during a program on the privately owned broadcaster UTV, according to Kobbena and Sorkpor Kafui Kofi Justice, a regional correspondent with the privately owned broadcaster Adom TV, who witnessed the incident and spoke with CPJ.

Kobbena protested that he did not work for UTV, had not appeared on the program, and showed the women a press card showing that he worked for Cape FM. Although the women walked away, a man approached Kobbena with the same accusation, and the journalist said a crowd of NPP supporters quickly gathered around him and started assaulting him.

They slapped and punched him in the face and all over his body, according to the two journalists. Kobbena, who said some of the attackers were also wearing Koomson-branded T-shirts, was rescued by other journalists who pulled him away from the assailants. Kobbena said he suffered cuts on his lips, pain in his back and ribs, as well as a headache, adding that he was treated for his injuries and takes pain medication. 

Justice said he reported the incident to the NPP central regional organizer, Anthony Kwesi Sackey. Contacted by CPJ, Sackey accused Kobbena of lying, saying that the journalist had earlier reported to Sackey that he had been attacked by two people and not 15. Sackey said that he gave Kobbena money for treatment and said that the NPP condemns attacks on the press.

Kobbena confirmed that an NPP director of communications gave him 1,400 cedis (US$115.73) for his treatment but said that the money was insufficient to cover the cost. 

In a January 25 statement, the Ghana Journalists Association said that no investigations had been carried out into Kobbena’s assault and called for a news blackout on Koomson, who also serves as Ghana’s Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development. 

CPJ’s calls and text messages to Samson Baaba, the police officer in charge of the investigation, Ghana’s National Police Spokesperson Grace Ansah-Akrofi, and Koomson went unanswered.

Editor’s note: This report has been updated to correct the spelling of the last name of NPP parliamentarian Mavis Hawa Koomson and Kobbena’s job title. The report was updated in the second paragraph to correct the description of the event and location, and the ninth paragraph to reflect who gave him the money.