Sensational ‘militia’ documentary ‘crass and bad journalism’ – Paul Adom-Otchere

kwahuonlineradio March 14, 2019 0
Sensational ‘militia’ documentary ‘crass and bad journalism’ – Paul Adom-Otchere

Veteran Journalist and Host of Good Evening Ghana on Metro TV, Paul Adom
Otchere, has carefully analyzed and punched gaping holes into the video
documentary by Joy News’ Manasseh Azure Awuni, titled ‘Militia in the
Heart of the nation’.

The outspoken journalist and a PR practitioner, sharing his views on the
Good Evening Ghana Editorial segment of his show, did not mince words
when he described the documentary as “sensational, disingenuous and bad
journalism”.

The documentary, which captures a group of young men and women said to
be members of a private security firm or militia group known as De-Eye
Group during a meeting at the Christiansburg Castle at Osu, the former
seat of government, has generated heated public debate about whether or
not the producer did a good job.

Manasseh Azure Awuni among other things emphatically stated that the
supposed militia group, which had two offices at the Castle, was
affiliated to the NPP, and that, although it wasn’t a registered private
security firm as his checks had revealed, attempts by the National
Security to evict them in the past were unsuccessful.

Manasseh thus stated that the group had the support of a higher hand in
government for which reason they could have access to the Castle which
houses some ministries, and it’s treated as a security zone.

With the Commander of De-Eye group identified as Nana Wereko-Addo (Alias
‘Chooman’), a former personal bodyguard to President Nana Akufo-Addo,
Manasseh Azure Awuni showed a scene in the video where another leader of
the group, was heard assuring the members and telling them that the
President was indeed aware of their gatherings at the meeting.

In another scene, the Commander himself was also heard urging the
members not to get themselves into trouble with the law, adding that in
that particular week, no member of the group had been caught with the
law.

He was heard saying they’re not going to rise up against Nana Akufo-Addo
or any state official, but was heard boasting about the kind of
training they give to their members, for which reason some of them had
enlisted in the security agencies.

In criticizing the work of Manasseh, many have particularly described
his use of the description ‘militia’ as extreme, sensational and
inaccurate, with the explanation that the persons captured in the video
in uniformed suits with no weapons or any rigorous physical training,
could not have been members of a so-called militia or vigilante group.

The critics have also taken on the journalist and the Multimedia Group
for causing fear and panic by overly hyping a documentary that in their
view was not worth the publicity.

Some critics specifically questioned the use of hooded men in black with
weapons in the promotional photos that were published on their online
portal ahead of the airing of the documentary, although there were no
such persons in the video.

Government itself has condemned the video describing it as a sensational
and malicious piece of work lacking the right ingredients to pass for a
good undercover piece.

Although the government admitted the group should not have held its
meetings at the Castle, it stated emphatically that the group was not a
militia group operating with the tacit support of government as the
producers sought to suggest.

The New Patriotic Party, NPP, also dissociated itself from De-Eye Group,
and said it had not sanctioned its operations at the Castle, although
the producers of the documentary mentioned that members of the Eye-Group
had in the past provided some security services at NPP events.

Paul Adom Otchere’s analysis

Before his detailed analysis of the documentary, Mr. Paul Adom Otchere
said: “We want to comment about aspects of the documentary, because we
felt that in some aspects of it, the documentary could have been more
just and could have been fairer”.

He then continued by first showing his viewers a story on Myjoyonline
titled “NPP militia training centre uncovered in the capital”.

According to Paul, the image of hooded men holding guns as advertised before the airing of the documentary was misleading.

He said “We were worried because when we researched, these photographs
are photographs that have been exported from a Nigerian phenomenon.
Something happened in Nigeria where these men apparently went into the
Senate to have some difficulty removing Saraki or something like that.
So really, this was quite scary; and anyone who saw this poster was
particularly worried that we’re going to see a documentary in which
militiamen either dressed like this as they were on the morning of the
Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election or that they were training shooting guns
and stuffs like that.”

“This actually we think; constitutes wrong reporting because these
photographs that were put up as adverts for the documentary did not
actually do justice to the evidence that Joy FM had gathered in their
documentary. So this is the first concern that we have.”

“This is a very big and important company, which is a media and news
leader in Ghana, and if you’re putting out a documentary as they have
done so many times and put up fantastic documentaries over the years,
and this is the poster that advertises the documentary only for us to
sit behind our sets and we find out that the people that have been
secretly filmed do not look anything like this poster, then really it’s a
little sensational and wrong reporting. That’s our first concern with
our friends at Joy FM,” he noted.

The definition of a Militia group

After playing excerpts of the supposed undercover part of the video,
Paul Adom Otchere explained the meaning of the word ‘Militia’ as “an
army that is conscripted from the civilian society either to support the
military or to oppose the military one way or the other”.

He then added that “These people don’t look like people who want to
oppose the military or who even have the capacity, the weaponry and the
strength to oppose the military, so that’s very clear, and my concern is
that this is a big media house doing this; and you call this group of
people as a militia based on the definition of militia that was
apparently given at the Commission for the Ayawaso West Wuogon
by-election.”

Analyzing the statement attributed to Eugene Arhin

Mr. Adom Otchere also punched holes into a statement attributed to Mr.
Eugene Arhin, the Director of Communications at the Presidency, in which
he supposedly told Joy News that the President was not aware of the
alleged activities of any group operating at the castle, let alone
sanction them.

The documentary also quoted Mr. Arhin as saying that, “My checks from
the National Security have revealed that no such group is operating from
the Castle”.

But Mr. Adom Otchere argued that the supposed response can only be put
in proper context if Manasseh Azure Awuni had told viewers the specific
question he asked Mr. Arhin for which that answer was given.

“They don’t tell us the question they put to Eugene Arhin and that’s
where our disappointment is. I don’t know what question they put to
Eugene Arhin, but in terms of the credibility of the work, we need to
know what question they put to him. What group did you mention to him?
What activities did you tell him that they’ve been carrying out? If you
don’t tell us the question you asked of Eugene Arhin and you give us the
answer that he gave and just say that you talked to Eugene Arhin about
the documentary, that’s really unfair and it leaves a whole gap for the
credibility of the whole effort that you’re putting together. I am
afraid to say, but that’s what it is. That gives us a bit of jitters and
unnerves about the conclusion,” he stated.

Unproven claims

The Good Evening Ghana Host, also questioned why Manasseh Azure Awuni
failed to provide any evidence to his claim that De-Eye group operates
in and out of Accra.

“No evidence at all was produced for this claim. No single example was
offered, and I think that’s bad. The documentary should have told us
that they provide security services in Accra and Kumasi, and that we’ve
found that on this particular occasion in Kumasi and that day they
operated here or there; later in the documentary they talk about the
Accra International Conference Centre, we will deal with that. Given
your status as an important news leader, this is not the kind of work
that you should do, and this isn’t the kind of outcomes that you should
give, and this is not the kind of evidence that should lead you to other
outcomes,” he argued.

Manasseh’s ‘inappropriate’ interview with Martin Kpebu

Mr. Paul Adom Otchere, who’s also a private lawyer, said it was
inappropriate for Joy News to seek an opinion of an individual lawyer to
know what the law says about running a private security firm like the
De-Eye group without a license, after had they confirmed from the
Interior Ministry that the firm wasn’t registered.

In his view, for the credibility of the documentary, Joy News should
have sought that interpretation from the Attorney General’s department
or someone with specific authority or depth in law on that subject
matter.

“What’s the basis for picking Mr. Martin Kpebu? Why are you picking
Martin Kpebu over 4,000 lawyers? That’s not the way to do a documentary.
You go to the office of the Attorney General; that’s why they’re the
principal legal advisers to the government. And they’re everybody’s
lawyers because they’re paid with the tax payer’s money; they have all
the information, they have all the laws, and they are also the Ministry
of Justice. That interview appears disingenuous,” he said.

More gaps, More questions

Mr. Paul Adom Otchere also raised some pertinent questions about the
portion of the documentary where Manasseh Azure Awuni linked members of
De-Eye group to an NPP event attended by Nana Addo, and suggested that
the party relied on them for security duties that day.

According to Mr. Otchere, the documentary did not provide any evidence
to suggest that the men at the Castle Gardens shown in the documentary
were the same people who provided security at the Conference Centre
event.

“The documentary does not evidence that circle person A training at the
Osu Castle, show him at the Conference Centre standing in front of the
door performing those services that you allege that they’re performing,
so there’s a major gap there as well that has to be filled by a top
media company like Joy FM putting out a documentary about a matter
that’s so sensitive. I think the standards should have been higher; I
think they should’ve gone better than that”.

Paul explained further that “A documentary that has outcomes, whose
outcomes could be fatal including about people, that documentary must be
able to bring out evidence that’s inconvertible in terms of the
attributions that you make. You cannot make attributions and get away
with it; that’s not why people fought for the 1992 constitution. You’re
Joy FM, so you cannot just make attributions and just walk through it;
and they have done that with this documentary, I will show you the
statement from the Ghana Armed Forces and their own changing statements
online after the documentary. And that’s where the disappointment is
tonight, that our big news leader has done something that really should
have been done better”.

Tagging the President with “evaporating evidence” very bad
Mr. Adom Otchere was not the least enthused about the attempt by the
producer to link the so-called militia group to President Akufo-Addo
with what he calls ‘evaporating evidence’.

“This is the worst part of the attributions that were made in the
documentary. A clear direct tagging of the President has been
established by absolutely no evidence. Totally evaporated evidence based
on the words that were uttered by ‘Chooman’. ‘Chooman’ said that the
President said on the event day, congratulating them that they’re good
people and that the President was asking; are these the people at the
castle? How do we believe that? How do we know that the President said
that? Maybe he was encouraging them; quite clearly he was encouraging
them. Joy FM does not evidence at all, they don’t even comment by saying
that well; this is his view, we don’t know if the President said that;
which should have been fine to issue a small disclaimer in there. This
is the way in which you tag the President to something like this
happening at the Castle; that the President has a direct connection with
the militia simply because the head of the militia said that to the
people?” he quizzed in awe.

“You didn’t hear it from the President, you didn’t confirm from other
sources; all you say is that the guy said it so the President said it?
And that’s how you tag the president to a very serious matter like this
that has implications for our foreign investments; has implications for
the country’s image and for everything? This is a President who a few
days ago, had been talking in a sessional address and giving a blueprint
about how vigilantism can be solved. The diplomatic community has heard
it, the world has heard it, civil society is suspicious, but at least a
blueprint has been given; the president goes on to add that if the
blueprint fails he will initiate a legislation. He’s given a very clear
commitment to the matter.”

“If you want to show a documentary to show a contradiction, this
evaporating evidence is what you tag the President with and conclude by
saying that National Security is aware, President is the Chairman of the
National Security, this is dastardly; this is the worst part of it.
‘Chooman’ said it doesn’t mean that it’s true. That’s disingenuous,
that’s bad journalism; it’s bad, it’s crass and it’s not good
journalism. It’s disingenuous and I am afraid to say it’s poor. It’s
very poor”.

Fake impact stories?

Paul also accused Joy FM of putting out false stories to create an
impression that the documentary had made some sudden impact despite the
backlash.

He specifically mentioned a story about soldiers clearing out De-Eye
group from the Castle after the documentary, saying this claim was later
denied in a statement issued by the Ghana Armed Forces.

“This was palpable falsity. We didn’t know that it was false because we
trust Joy FM. A day after the documentary, there was an unseen hand
forcing an impact on the Ghanaian citizen. This cannot be; this is a
very important media organization that doesn’t need to do this. Then
later the Ghana Armed Forces comes in and say it has not deployed any
soldiers to clear the Castle.”

Freedom and Independence of the media

Mr. Adom Otchere reminded Manasseh Azure Awuni and his Multimedia group,
and the media in general of their limits, rights and responsibilities,
referencing the various articles on Freedom and Independence of the
media.

He also referenced a suit filed by the governing New Patriotic Party in
1993 against the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation GBC, which ended in a
4-3 ruling in favour of the NPP.

Due to the lack of media plurality at the time, the NPP was in court to
establish a principle that all parties needed to be given fair coverage
by the state broadcaster, a ruling that deepened media freedom and fair
coverage for political parties.

“This was an important matter. Let’s see what Justice George R.M
Francois, one of the famous judges we had at the time in Ghana had to
say.”

“So Justice Francois in his ruling in favour of the media said “It is
the right of the viewers and the listeners, not the right of the
broadcaster or broadcasters which is paramount. That’s what Justice
Francois said in Ghana’s Supreme Court in 1993. So yes, you may have the
right to do an undercover investigation and the right to publish it,
but you have a responsibility to the people to give them a properly
evidenced story; that’s their right too; you don’t deny them that right
and impose something on them that’s not properly evidenced. That’s low;
that’s not great”.

De-Eye group sues Manasseh, Multimedia; demands GHC10m in damages

De-Eye group Limited, the company at the centre of the documentary has
sued Multimedia and Manasseh Azure Awuni over claims made in the
documentary.

De-Eye group in its writ indicated that the company is not a “militia group” as suggested in the documentary.

“The plaintiff avers that the promotion of the 1st Defendant documentary
coupled with the full documentary which was aired on the 2nd
Defendant’s network has generated several comments and media attention
ostensibly to tarnish the reputation of the organisation by describing
it as a militia group when in fact its activities have nothing to do
with any militia operations,” it added.

The company is, therefore, seeking a declaration that the publication be declared “slanderous and defamatory.”

De-Eye is also seeking compensatory damages in the sum of ten million
Ghana cedis for “loss of reputation against the defendants.”

The company is also seeking an order “directed at the defendants to
retract the said defamatory publications and render unqualified apology
in the same prominence on Joy TV and four publications in the Daily
Graphic.”




Leave A Response »