If it was assumed that the ascension of Kurt Okraku (a trained journalist) as Ghana Football Association (GFA) President would end the canker of accredited journalists being denied access to Ghana Premier League (GPL) venues to undertake their legitimate work and what’s worse, get assaulted by fans and at times club operatives, even at designated media areas, that assumption was mistaken.
Evidence shows that journalists are still intimated, beaten and prevented from carrying out their duties at some venues notoriously known for unprovoked, dastard acts of violence against media personnel. What’s disappointing is that neither the Police nor the GFA and media groups like the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and the Sports Writers Association (SWAG) have done enough to contain the canker.
Media Foundation for West Africa, a media watch group in 2019, recorded 30 press freedom violations in Ghana. In their list were three incidents of brutalities against GPL journalists. In fact, first on the MFWA list was Asante Kotoko reporter, Gideon Botwe, who constantly suffer various violations at Obuasi, Dormaa, Tarkwa and Berekum.
A notable portion in the MFWA document was the point that, of their “simplified, verifiable data covering 30 months, none of the perpetrators had been punished” as of the time their publication. It’s distressing that, the status quo remains in the situation of assault on GPL journalists. More depressing is the fact that, Asante Kotoko’s media personnel continue to be intimidated, denied access and beaten.
On Saturday at the Golden City Park, Berekum, Asante Kotoko tweeted as follows: “We regret to announce that we've STOPPED our text commentary. Media Officers, Gideon Botwe and Emmanuel Offei have been led out of the Berekum Golden City Park by the Police following incessant attacks on them by a section of the home fans.”
At the same venue, two other journalists, Ark FM’s Thomas Opoku and Samuel Appiah were assaulted by Berekum Chelsea fans with one beaten to a pulp. The Bono Ahafo Sports Broadcaster Association has condemned the attack on the duo. You would’ve expected the GFA, the GJA and of course, SWAG to do same but that’s expecting too much given how we’ve handled press freedom violations in the GPL.
Are we waiting for mindless hoodlums to kill a journalist at a venue before serious actions are taken? For the almost 20 years that I covered Asante Kotoko, I went to Dormaa once. I swore never to return there because of the violent conduct of some club operatives and fans who won’t allow you to work. Recently, Kotoko simply decided not to allow their media team to work at Dormaa for their safety.
I quit going to Berekum when a machete-wielding operative of Berekum Arsenal threatened me while taking pictures of Kotoko players during warm-up. I know a number of GPL journalists who have equally vowed not to report from these centres for safety reasons. Press freedom violations in the GPL is real. The situation is unacceptable.
Safety of journalists covering the GPL should be a matter of prime concern to the GFA. Kumasi, Accra, Obuasi and notably Berekum persistently record unacceptable incidents of journalists being attacked. With the President and the General Secretary of the GFA being journalists and members of SWAG; it’s time they acted with the Police especially to ensure the safety of media personnel at match venues.