Abuja, February 7, 2024—Authorities in Ghana must ensure an efficient and comprehensive investigation into the attack on journalist Mohammed Aminu M. Alabira and hold accountable those responsible, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
Alabira, a correspondent for privately owned broadcaster Citi FM, told CPJ he was covering the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) parliamentary primaries on January 27 in the northern town of Yendi when an unidentified man approached the counting area and accused an electoral official of destroying ballot papers. The man’s allegation resulted in an uproar among NPP party supporters, who began destroying ballot papers and electoral equipment, according to Alabira and a colleague, who witnessed the incident and spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
When Alabira approached Farouk Aliu Mahama, an NPP member of parliament, for comment, the politician slapped the journalist’s face and kicked his leg, according to Alabira and his colleague. Mahama’s security guard then grabbed Alabira by the neck and seized his phone before several party supporters began hitting and punching the journalist on his head and back.
The attack on Alabira lasted about three minutes, during which an attacker smashed Alabira’s phone screen before police intervened and pulled Alabira to safety, according to those sources and video of the incident reviewed by CPJ.
CPJ recently documented the attack on another Ghanaian journalist, David Kobbena, a morning show host with the privately owned broadcaster Cape FM, at the office of the Central Regional Minister, who is a member of the NPP, in the central Cape Coast region on January 4.
“Authorities in Ghana must ensure a comprehensive investigation into the January 27 attack on journalist Mohammed Aminu M. Alabira, hold those responsible to account, and guarantee that journalists feel safe to report on political activities ahead of national elections later this year,” said Angela Quintal, head of CPJ’s Africa program, from New York. “Repeated attacks against the press in Ghana by politically affiliated individuals are concerning and suggest an unacceptable disrespect for journalists’ crucial role in democracy.”
Alabira and his colleague said police officers took Alabira in their van to a nearby police station, where officers took his statement and gave him a form for a medical professional to complete. Alabira was examined at the local hospital, where he was given medication for a headache and chest pains.
The journalist said that police had told him they were referring the case to the attorney general’s office.
Alabira told CPJ on February 1 that he still suffers from a headache and chest pain from the incident and could not use his phone until repairing the screen on January 30. On February 5, he told CPJ that he still experiences occasional pain, but it had become less frequent.
When contacted by phone, Mahama declined to speak to CPJ but shared a document prepared by his lawyers, which accused Alabira of falsely saying in an online publication by his outlet that Mahama had slapped the journalist from behind and threatened legal action if the article wasn’t retracted and Mahama didn’t receive an apology for defamation in seven days.
Alabira told CPJ that he had never described Mahama as hitting him from behind, only from the front. CPJ’s review of the report on January 31 showed that it did not include Alabira saying Mahama slapped him from behind.
On February 6, four media rights groups—the Media Foundation for West Africa, the Ghana Journalists Association, the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association, and the Private Newspapers and Online News Publishers Association of Ghana—issued a statement calling on NPP leaders and police authorities to hold Mahama and his supporters accountable within 10 days or face further actions from the associations, according to CPJ’s review of the statement. The associations also called on media organizations to avoid covering Mahama.
CPJ called and texted the Ghanaian Minister of Information Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, national police spokesperson Grace Ansah Akrofi, and NPP General Secretary Justin Kodua Frimpong for comment but received no response.