The Rambo movie Style entry by Thugs associated to the NPP Party is akin to the Dubrovka Theatre siege of 12th October 2002 in Moscow.
In that theater siege, Musa Barayev and his Chechnya Fundamentalists stormed the 5000-capacity theatre to torment their captives in a similar fashion.
Unlike the Theatre siege in Moscow, where the leader of the Fundamentalist Musa Barayev opened fire on one of the hostages he considered hostile upon meeting him at the main entrance of the theater, with the “UTV siege”, the hoodlums heckled, manhandled and pushed the Producer of the Show, one Ike aside to gain access to the studio, characteristic of the theater siege.
The psychological trauma, fear and panic that gripped the 901 hostages, can be said to be same with Panelists and control room staff of UTV as captured in the video, a scene not pleasant to behold. One of the Panelists, Mr. ‘Logic’ was said to have sought refuge under a small table in the Control room for fear of his life. The only crime of the Show Host and the Panelists [as has been argued by the hoodlums] was that they discuss “NPP issues”, an objection which has no bearing with the provisions in the constitution that guarantees freedom of the media and free speech.
In fact Article 162 of the 1992 Constitution succinctly states “ Editors and publishers of newspapers and other institutions of the mass media shall not be subject to control or interference by Government, nor shall they be penalized or harassed for their editorial opinions and views, or the content of their publications.
This provision therefore makes nonsense of the arguments by the hoodlums and other like minded who are making similar line of arguments. Assuming without admitting that the United Show Biz Show has become hostile to the NPP as a party, was that the best way to address the situation. How do you attack a media house and expect that same media house to give you fair coverage. A little introspection into their action would give you what to expect in no distant future as one can not approbate and reprobate.
I dare say that what happened in the UTV studios is terrorism against the media and requires the media , international community to speak up against this ignominy. It is important to emphasize that attacks like this was the main reason the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed November 2, as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ in General Assembly Resolution . The Resolution which Ghana is a signatory urged Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity. But that can not be said about a government whose leader is noted to be a Human Rights Lawyer.
Joseph Pulitzer reminds us that an able disinterested public spirited Press with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it can protect that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and mockery. This means that no matter how great a government performs, it is of no use without the existence or independence of the media.
The facts remain that attack on Journalists by Surrogates of this current government is at an all time high with Perpetrators often being left off the hook. This barbaric and abhorrent situation is nauseating to state the least and makes Journalism or media practice in Ghana unsafe. The widespread condemnation by institutions such as the GJA, NMC, PRINPAG, Individuals attest to the fact that the shameful conduct of the NPP hoodlums has no place in our democratic dispensation where rights of individuals and institutions remain sacred.
Actions like these only expose Ghana to the risk of dropping further in the World Press Freedom Ranking by the Rapporteur Sans Frontier (RSF). Ghana has for the second successive year dropped on the annual Press Freedom Index. The country’s ranking fell from 60th place last year to 62nd in 2023. However, among African countries, Ghana placed 9th, an improvement from its 10th position in the 2022 report. This is Ghana’s worst performance in 18 years since it placed 66th in 2005.
I must however commend the leadership of the NPP for distancing themselves from the studio siege by rampaging youth of the party. It must also be noted that condemning the act is not enough but making effort to produce the culprits to face the full rigours of the law is the only thing Ghanaians can believe the NPP as Party mean the statement they issued.
I want to commend the Police for their swift intervention in restoring calm at the studios of UTV. However they must be seen to be working beyond the usual rhetoric where nothing is heard after issuing statements. The police service for sometime now has become a pale shadow of itself and the earlier it changes its modus operandi, the better for all of us.
It is essential to state that just as the Ghana Police stormed the studios of UTV, in the Moscow theater siege, the 30 man squad led by Musa Barayev including female detonators could not stand the Russian Special Forces as the Russian Forces gassed the theater, making every one feel unconscious in the process, then stormed the theater and did justice to Barayev and his squad.
We all now need to avert our minds to the fact that attack on Journalists is a very serious crime hence the Police need to arrest all those captured in the video and arraign them before the court to face prosecution. It is the only way the Police can win back the confidence of the public.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), US Embassy and any International Media Organization must intervene in this media siege in Ghana to put pressure on Ghana Police to do the needful- for what happened in the Studios of UTV could have resulted in something fatal as we are told some of them wielded knife and other sharp implements.
There is therefore no gainsaying the fact that attack on media anywhere is an attack on media everywhere, as such we all need to be involved to curtail this antiquated and dangerous act, failure of which we would be reneging on the very principle that binds us together as the fourth Estate of the Realm.
And to those media and Journalists who are quiet, some of whom are justifying the act, let me leave you with this 1946 post-war confessional prose by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) who said “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”.
The Writer, Michael Petit Mawugbe (aka Efo Mawugbe) is a Media and Communications Consultant, Editor of senaradioonline.com and Social Justice Practitioner.