Mannaseh Azure Awuni
Government has dragged journalist, Manasseh Azuri Awuni and his employer, Multimedia Broadcasting Company Limited, to the National Media Commission (NMC) over a recent documentary aired on the various platforms of the company.
The documentary dubbed ‘Militia in the heart of the nation’ which was aired on Thursday, March 7, was produced by Mr. Awuni to indicate that De Eye Group which it said is aligned to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government and President Akufo-Addo, was training militias for the ruling party at the former seat of government, the Osu Christiansborg Castle, in Accra.
The government has vehemently debunked the claim and said the documentary ‘impugned’ its image.
It is therefore seeking a declaration to the effect that the documentary is not only ‘misleading’ but also constitutes a ‘dishonest’ and ‘deliberate’ misrepresentation of facts ‘calculated’ at causing undue ‘public apprehension’, ‘alarm’ and ‘panic’.
The government is also demanding a retraction and apology to the Government of Ghana on the contents of the documentary and further disciplinary measures as the commission may deem fit.
In a petition signed on March 13 by Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah and addressed to Chairman of the NMC, the government said, “the narrative of the 22-minute documentary stated that a ‘militia’ had been uncovered training and operating at a ‘security zone’ with the complicity of the Government of Ghana and identified it as belonging to the New Patriotic Party.”
The government insisted that “a careful examination of the contents of the impugned publication discloses that the first six (6) minutes twenty (20) seconds of the documentary are about matters totally unconnected to the advertised subject matter of the documentary.”
Instead, the minister said “they largely, showed images from the violence witnessed at the recent Ayawaso West Wuogon bye-election which is the subject matter of an inquiry by a Commission of Inquiry set up pursuant to Article 278 of the Constitution (the Emile Short Commission).”
Apart from that, it indicated that “personnel from the Ghana Police Service and National Security Council Secretariat using a Ghana Police vehicle were seen engaged in a violent confrontation with some people in an area at the Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency.”
In that regard, the government insists that “the attempt by Manasseh Awuni and Multimedia to portray the company as being engaged in the perpetration of acts seen in the first 6 minutes and 20 seconds of the documentary, or similar thereto, only exposes the mischief with which the documentary was laced and does little credit to the reputation of a media house which prides itself as independent and guided by the ethics of the media profession.”
The government said that “the substance of the said documentary is, in various material essentials, utterly false, a product of gross misrepresentation of facts, wild speculation by the producer of the documentary specified above, and same betrays a desperate attempt on the part of Multimedia and Manasseh Awuni to vilify the sincere effort by the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to end the worrying phenomenon of political vigilantism in the country.”
The government is convinced that “the documentary deliberately omitted to state the material fact that National Security Council Secretariat had closed down the purported office of the company since October 2018” and that “as of the date of publication of the documentary in March 2019, “there was no activity of whatsoever nature by the company at the Castle.”
It also insists that “at the time of airing the documentary, Multimedia played it to create the false impression to the public that such a false activity was ongoing on the premises of the Osu Castle” and that “the mischief at the time of airing the documentary, was to muddy the waters at the time when the President was taking steps to sanitise the political environment of all acts of ‘vigilantism’.”
The government said “since March 2017, the Castle, Osu has not been a ‘security zone’ neither has it been an annex to the presidency.”
The facility is operated by the Museums and Monuments Board, after President Akufo-Addo on 5th March 2017 tasked the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture to spearhead its transformation into a museum.
Indeed, it noted that the Castle gardens are also opened to the public, insisting that “why Joy News will be privy to this fact and proceed to publish in March 2019 that it is a security zone being now used for training militia is being disingenuous’.
The government considered the documentary as “the unbounded calumny by Manasseh Awuni Azure, Joy News and its affiliates aimed at distorting government policy and work on serious matters of national concern like the fight against vigilantism.”
By Charles Takyi-Boadu