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General News of Friday, 16 November 2018

Source: Media Coalition

RTI Bill: How the police dealt with Media Coalition

Some police and military personnel yesterday detained the editor of The Finder newspaper at Parliament Police Station, accusing him of taking photos of military personnel who destroyed a placard of a member of the Media Coalition on Right to Information (RTI) Bill in front of the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC).

The policeman, who only gave his name as Chief Inspector Darkwa, argued that taking photos of security personnel discharging their duties was illegal. It all started when three police personnel at the gate of Parliament asked some members of the Media Coalition on RTI Bill who were standing on the pavement in front of AICC with placards urging the passage of RTI to leave the area.

According to the police and military men, the place is part of State House, and therefore constitutes a security zone, and the order from above was for them to drive them away.

The coalition members disagreed on grounds that earlier, police and military personnel on duty at the gate of AICC asked the coalition members to move a few steps away since the Vice-President was coming to the AICC for a function, to which they obliged, only for security personnel in front of the Parliament gate to insist they leave the area completely.

During exchanges with the three police officers, one military person and a police officer alighted from a four-wheel drive and approached the group.

They also insisted that members of the coalition should depart from the area.

When the coalition members asked to know the reason behind that directive, the military personnel forcefully took a placard from one gentleman and broke it into pieces.

The editor of The Finder, who was waiting on phone to grant an interview to a radio station, decided to abandon the interview and use his phone to take photos of the conduct of the military person.

One police officer grabbed the hand of Elvis Darko in an attempt to take his phone, to which he resisted.

The military person assisted the policeman to wrestle the phone from the editor of The Finder.

After successfully taking away the phone, they asked Darko follow them to the Parliament Police Station.

When they got to the gate of Parliament House, they asked him to board their four-wheel drive to the police station.

Even though Darko told them he prefers to walk to the station, they demanded he board the vehicle, to which he obliged. At the police station, the police officer alighted and accompanied Darko to the entrance.

The military person drove away while the policeman ordered The Finder editor to go to counter-back because he was under arrest.

Darko obliged and requested to be given his phone to inform his employers that he has been arrested.

The policeman refused on grounds that once arrested, a suspect loses his rights, adding that he has seized the phone because it was used to take photo of the military man.

The police narrated the reason for the arrest to a female officer behind the counter, and in the process searched through Darko’s photo gallery to read some of the placards for the female officer to add to the reason for the arrest.

The policeman then gave his name and phone number to the female officer behind the counter and left.

A male officer, also behind the counter, asked for the name, place of work and phone number of Darko, and wrote them down.

After that, he searched Darko from top to down and made him to remove everything in his pocket. When he was done, he asked Darko to put the items back into his pocket and take his seat.

A little over 20 minutes, the Commander of the Parliament Police Station came in and invited Darko to his office.

He explained that the coalition needed to inform the police as stated in the Public Order Act to be able to stand where the incident happened.

He was of the view that the police have to notified of every public event because sometimes it is for the protection of the people holding that public event.

At the tail end of the discussion, media practitioners from the Multimedia Group, led by Daniel Dadzie and Kojo Yankson, came to the police station to find out what was happening to Darko.

They were invited to the commander’s office, and they took part in the discussions.

When the commander claimed that Darko was not under arrest, Yankson and Dadzie asked him why Darko’s phone was still in the possession of the police.

At this point, the commander called the staff behind the counter to bring Darko’s phone to him.

After this, the commander explained further about the Public Order Act, and Darko was asked to leave by the commander.

The Media Coalition on RTI has been in the forefront pushing for the passage of the almost two-decade-old bill into law.

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