On Saturday, October 7, 2023, a group of about 20 individuals stormed the studios of Accra-based United Television (UTV) during a live broadcast. The assailants who are reported to be associated with the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) intimidated the presenter and guests, causing the station to temporarily go off air.
The primary target of their aggression according to the MFWA was Kwame A Plus known in private life as Kwame Asare Obeng, a prominent media and political activist and a regular guest on the Showbiz Show. According to the reports, the assailants were not pleased with comments Kwame A Plus and other regular panelists have been making on the show.
Saturday’s invasion of the studios of UTV by the assailants adds to a tall list of similar attacks on media houses in Ghana.
In this report, Fact-Check Ghana delves into media reports and alerts by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) on similar attacks on media houses spanning the last ten years. Although the search covered a decade, the incidents were recorded across seven years.
The outcome shows a disturbing trend of invasions of media house premises, including by armed men, destruction of studio equipment, violent disruption of transmission, assault and intimidation of presenters and guests.
The October 7, 2023 storming of UTV by thugs is the 14th attack on a media house in seven years. It was also the second act of violence against a media house in 2023.
On May 3, 2023, former Regional Communications Officer of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Hardi Pagzaa, burst into the studios of Radio Dagbon in Tamale and physically assaulted radio presenter Sadiq Gariba while he was live on air. Gariba had confronted Pagzaa over comments the presenter had made on another radio station about him that he considered disparaging.
Similar incidents plagued the media landscape in January and May 2022
Earlier, on January 13, 2022, a group of about 12 thugs attacked Radio Ada, a premier community radio station in the Greater Accra Region.
The assailants assaulted journalists, held clients hostage, and vandalized equipment, allegedly in response to the station’s critical programming regarding the controversial Songhor Lagoon lease to Electrochem Ghana Limited, a salt-producing company.
In May 2022, three men on motorcycles attacked Radio Benya in Elmina, assaulting the host and producer of a programme discussing issues related to the fishing industry.
In January 2021, an unknown individual breached security protocols at Zylofon FM and stormed the studio to issue a threat against radio broadcaster and reggae artiste, Blakk Rasta, who was presenting a late afternoon show. The intruder tampered with some broadcasting equipment causing a disruption in the transmission.
The assaults on media outlets have not only been perpetrated by thugs and social misfits. Some respectable individuals including security officers and pastors have been involved in the fray.
On May 11, 2021, gun-wielding security officers stormed the premises of Accra-based Citi Fm/Citi TV to arrest one of its journalists, Zoe Abu-Baidoo. This is after she was accused of receiving unauthorised video files from her colleague, Caleb Kudah, who had earlier been arrested over filming some vehicles on the premises of the Ministry of National Security.
On March 15, 2019, Reverend Isaac Owusu Bempah, founder and leader of the Glorious Word and Power Ministry International, stormed the premises of Accra-based Radio XYZ with four armed thugs. This followed critical remarks made by a presenter at the station, Mugabe Maase, who was the target of the attack.
The assailants caused chaos, as they intimidated staff and clients, and manhandled the administrator and other staff of the radio station. It was the pastor’s second act of violence against a media organization.
On April 1, 2019, officers from the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) stormed Nokoranza-based Dero FM and assaulted the station over an alleged April Fool’s prank. Based on a report from a listener, the station had called to alert the Fire service of an accident, which turned out to be a hoax.
In one of the most brazen assaults on a media house, National security operatives raided the offices of ModernGhana.com on June 27, 2019, and arrested the editor and a reporter. The journalists were detained and reportedly tortured in custody. This incident followed a story the online portal carried on the national security minister.
August and December 2018
Back in 2018, two incidents were recorded. On August 2, some armed men and police officers invaded Radio Ada in a bid to arrest presenter DJ Koxterio. The presenter had criticised the traditional chiefs of the area for allegedly failing to account for funds raised during the annual traditional festival Asafotufiami.
In December 2018, Reverend Prophet Isaac Owusu Bempah flew into tantrums and vandalized equipment at Accra-based Hot FM, after being challenged to demonstrate his reputed miracles during an interview.
On June 30, 2017, the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) stormed and shut down Zaa Radio in Tamale, citing concerns that the station was fanning religious conflict. The intervention was in response to allegedly fiery preaching by leaders of one Muslim group which supposedly attacked a rival group. The station was allowed to resume transmission after an hour.
On October 18, 2017, the Kumasi Youth Association (KuYA) attacked Daily Guide‘s office in Kumasi, demanding an apology for what they considered offensive reportage about the revered traditional leader of the Ashantis, Osei Tutu II.
This was after the Daily Guide joined several Ghanaian media outlets which reported the dismissal of a staff of the Ghana International Bank in London over a transaction the staff had made on behalf of the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, allegedly, in breach of internal rules. The story was first broken by UK’s Daily Telegraph.
In a particularly alarming incident on January 5, 2016, clients of a collapsed microfinance company armed with cutlasses attacked Jerryson FM, threatening the staff and forcing the station to shut down temporarily. The mob acted on the allegation that the director of the radio station owned the collapsed microfinance company.
In an interview with Fact-Check Ghana, the Programmes Manager for Freedom of Expression at the MFWA, Muheeb Saeed observed that “these attacks go to the heart of the increasing culture of lawless violence in the country.”
He also observed that the involvement of personnel of the various security services in attacks on media houses is particularly disturbing, as it prevents them from investigating and prosecuting their own colleagues, thus encouraging other perpetrators.
On the way forward, Mr Saeed said the National Media Commission (NMC) must step up efforts to sensitise the public about the critical constitutional role of the media as the Fourth Estate of the realm.
“They must also educate the public to understand that grievances about media content can be reported to the Commission for redress,” he averred.
He advised media owners and managers to improve security at their premises, and broadcast stations must secure the studios in particular with modern access control gadgets.
As Ghana heads for elections in 2024, Mr. Saeed said the political temperature is bound to rise and with it, the temper of party foot soldiers in particular. “It is therefore important for the NMC, civil society, the Ghana Journalists Association, GIBA, PRINPAG and all stakeholders to begin their public education efforts and advocacy for peaceful campaigns and elections now.”