15 African press freedom groups petition Ghanaian president over persecution of investigative journalist

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The Accra-based Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and its partner press freedom organisations from across the 14 other member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have jointly implored the President of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo, “to personally intervene in guaranteeing the safety and security” of Ghanaian investigative journalist, Manasseh Azure Awuni.

A multiple award-winning investigative reporter, Awuni works for the Multimedia Group – Ghana’s largest independent commercial, media and entertainment. He had recently produced an investigative documentary report which revealed the existence of a vigilante group, aligned to Ghana’s ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP). President Akuffo-Addo is a member of the NPP.

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“The documentary also revealed that the leader of the said group happens to be your [Akuffo-Addo’s] former personal bodyguard. Following the publication of the report, a statement from your government, through the Ministry of Information, subsequently indicated that the said former personal bodyguard of yours, also got an appointment in your government,” reads the petition.

“The publication of the investigative report by the journalist [Manasseh Azure Awuni], came at a time when you have, on a number of occasions within the last one month, personally called for the disbandment of such vigilante groups by both your party and the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).”

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The press freedom groups described party vigilantism as “the biggest threat to the stability of Ghana and the country’s burgeoning democracy,” thus described Awuni’s exposé as a professional piece “of significant national interest”; however, decried the fact that since the airing of the said investigative documentary, the journalist had continued to receive “several threats on his life”.

“Our concern is born out of several factors including the recent murder of Ahmed Hussein-Suale, who was a team member of investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas.  We are also aware of a number of incidents of press freedom violations both under your government and that of your predecessor in which perpetrators have not been punished, thus, breeding a culture of impunity for crimes against journalists in Ghana,” said the petition.

The petition was signed by amongst others, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA); Associação Dos Jornalistas De Cabo Verde  (AJOC), Cape Verde; International Press Centre (IPC), Nigeria and The Gambia Press Union (GPU). Others were Media Reform Co-ordinating Group-Sierra Leone (MRCG-SL); Union des Journalistes Indépendants du Togo (UJIT); and Centre for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), Liberia and 8 others.

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