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National security officials violently assault photojournalists

(MFWA/IFEX) - Armed operatives of the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI), Ghana's intelligence agency, on 12 January 2012 violently assaulted Gifty Lawson, a photojournalist of the "Daily Guide", a privately-owned newspaper on the premises of the Human Rights Court in Accra.

Two of the newspaper's security personnel, Michael Awampaga and Anthony Kwame Antwi, who were guarding her, suffered a similar fate. After their ordeal, Lawson and Awampaga were bundled into a vehicle and detained at the BNI headquarters. Lawson was released after an hour. Awampaga, however, is being held on a trumped up charge of “slapping” one of the BNI operatives.

The "Daily Guide" team had gone to the court to cover the story of bail being granted to a senior police officer, a prime suspect in a missing cocaine scandal that hit the country. The BNI had detained the police officer beyond the 48 hours that the constitution allows.

Confirming the attack to Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Lawson said the armed officers of the BNI violently attacked her and the two security guards after she took photographs of the accused person. She stated that one official pulled her by the trousers exposing parts of her body in the process and bundled her into their vehicle to the national headquarters of the BNI.

On 11 January, Lawson and Richard Sky, another reporter of the Accra-based Citi FM were attacked by persons suspected to be relatives of the accused. Lawson, according to the privately-owned newspaper "The Enquirer", was beaten up and her camera destroyed beyond repair. The attacks were in the presence of policemen who took no action to stop the attack.

There has been widespread condemnation of the attack on the journalist. MFWA has called on the National Security Advisor and the Council of State to immediately bring to book officials of the BNI who violated the rights of these three persons.

“The MFWA fears there is a concerted attempt by some security operatives to obstruct journalists from performing their duties, especially in the coverage of suspected drug criminals. The violent attack on the "Daily Guide" staff is one of many acts perpetrated by operatives of the BNI and the police officers that violate rights of journalists to do their legitimate work in recent years. Indeed, it should be noted that in the Fourth Republic, the BNI and the police have been the major and only source of attacks on the rights of journalists in Ghana,” stated MFWA.
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