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Opinions of Monday, 23 July 2018

Columnist: Abella Ingrid

MFWA losing its relevance in Africa

As a donor who supports press freedom advocacy work, I could not believe my eyes when I saw the headline. And when the body of the article by Sulemana Braimah confirmed that the Executive Director of the MFWA was actually tearing to shreds Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ brand of journalism, I thought the piece was embarrassing of the press freedom organization.

In fact, I almost fainted reading certain portions of the article. But then I drew solace from the many reactions to the MFWA piece on social media that were largely supportive of the ace investigative journalist and his kind of journalism. I thought the article was embarrassing of the author and his organisation and creates credibility issues for the MFWA because they are contradicting many things I have seen or read from their outfit promoting Anas and his work.

First of all, I have watched a video on the MFWA’s website in which Anas is endorsing their West Africa Media Awards last year. Secondly, there is a story on the MFWA website dated 20th August 2015 which features Anas as the speaker at the MFWA’s first Journalism for Change Dialogue chaired by ex-CHRAJ boss.

“With some video footage, Anas showed his astounding repertoire which included undercover investigations at the Osu Children’s’ Home, the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, the Tema Harbour, the DVLA, the Eurofoods Biscuit factory and a rebel base inside war-torn Cote d’Ivoire,” the story said.

Note that this “astounding repertoire” as the MFWA put it, included his harbour and DVLA exposes. So, did Anas not induce the officers and workers to receive bribes in those two cases? How could those be worthy of MFWA’s compliments, only for the good people at the press freedom organization to turn their coats now and attempt to crucify the journalist’s method, as if they just stumbled on the theories they are now propounding?

Thirdly, I saw the MFWA named in some promotional publication as partners to Tiger Eye PI in the public screening of the 2015 Expose on the Judiciary. I also read one or two media reports that named the MFWA as co-defendants in suits filed by some of the affected judges. How do these tally with the MFWA’s current attack on Anas’ brand of journalism? Now if the MFWA endorsed the judicial expose’, then they are guilty of condoning the subsequent “fraud” of Anas’ crowning by the GJA as 2015 Journalist of the Year based on that piece of work.

Mr. Braimah should have educated the GJA that they were rewarding “non-journalism.” What I have done so far is to furnish circumstantial evidence that the MFWA are contradicting themselves. Now to the substantive arguments, and I am citing just one fallacy in the MFWA article, specifically, about the journalist and the IGP scenario: A journalist who actually does have a brother who really wants to join the Police Service, requests an interview with the IGP.

After his interaction with the police chief, the media professional then broaches the subject of his brother’s ambition to join the service. He proceeds to offer some amount of money to the IGP who calls his men to arrest him for attempted bribery. After this synopsis, the MFWA proceeds to ask the following question;
“Should it now be acceptable for journalists to engage in acts of bribery and when caught all they have to do to set themselves free is to prove that they are journalists?” No, because in this scenario, the journalist in question actually did have a brother who really wanted to be helped to join the Police service.

He was therefore attempting to pay a bribe to further a personal interest. Does Anas behave like this phantom journalist?

In his dealings with the referees and GFA officials for instance, did Anas really have an interest in the results of the matches or the inclusion of any player in the national teams? The answer is no!

Therefore, with the benefit of this knowledge, Anas is not a bribe giver in the true sense. The public officers Anas approaches with his bribe always know that they are receiving undue favours to act illegally or in a corrupt and unlawful manner. Many of them, in fact, do name their price after they have been requested to offer certain illegal services. A few of those who have the integrity to reject the overtures sometimes call in the police, and when they do, Anas duly reports it! Now, Mr. Braimah, I also have this question for you: if any undercover journalists present themselves to a public officer otherwise than as journalists, they will have indulged in deceit.

So, if such undercover journalists are found out, the MFWA of all organisations will support that they be arrested and charged with deceiving a public officer? So, instead of a scenario where the IGP takes the bribe, the clever people at the MFWA creates the ideal public officer of integrity.

Then, ironically, the organization that works to defend press freedom proceeds to pitch the honest IGP against a dishonorable, criminal journalist who actually wants the IGP to help his brother. Well, the MFWA’s kind of IGP is what Anas wishes to create with his work. Unfortunately, his clients have not been so idealistically honest. Their greed, lack of professionalism and integrity have often let them down. Therefore, this chorus about “entrapment” being sung by the anti-Anas crusaders must stop.

With all this only one conclusion can be drawn; the Media Foundation for West Africa has lost its relevance. The days of the Prof. Kwame Karikari were not like this. I look back to those days with relish.