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Opinions of Friday, 22 June 2018

Columnist: Sammy Darko

#Number12 made simple

Anas premiered a documentary on the rot in the Ghana Football Association play videoAnas premiered a documentary on the rot in the Ghana Football Association

On another wall, someone admitted that he was confused about the controversy surrounding #Number12. So I wrote this:

#Number12 is a sting operation. It is a term of art in Investigative Journalism; We have broadly two main types-conventional investigative journalism and then undercover reporting. The latter is rarely used and resorted to when the conventional investigative journalism cannot help “catch the bad guys”.

Undercover reporting also known as “subterfuge journalism” is not the same as entrapment usually used by security agencies. Consider these two scenarios;

First Scenario:

I have dug a hole in the middle of the road and covered it, making it look like it is perfectly safe. You walked on it and fell into the hole. This is entrapment

Second Scenario:

I have dug a hole. I show you that that portion there is a hole there. So you are perfectly aware there is a hole, yet you take the chance. This is not entrapment.

The law is not designed to entrap people. That is why it is written down and punishment thereof prescribed. That is also why ignorance of the law is no excuse. You are presumed to know the law. So if you know the law but decides to take a risk and you get caught, you cannot turn around and say the law has entrapped you.

Journalists who use non-conventional method, just don’t get up with hidden cameras and start recording at large. It’s a painstaking investigation that is premised on prima facie (obvious, clear) evidence that “you” in the position of trust, you are corrupt and/or engaged in corrupt deals. It is after the journalist and his team are satisfied that there is a basis for them to investigate you that they set up to approach “you”. There has to be prima facie case established against the suspect before the investigation is conducted.

If the rot you are involved in can be uncovered through the normal journalism, i.e. either secretly recording you whilst you are in the process of committing such an offense or by getting documents/evidence compromising/ incriminating you and confronting you with the evidence, then there will be no need to use a sting operation. However, when the journalist and his team are convinced, your modus operandi or level of dealings are so sophisticated that the only way to uncover you is to pretend to be like “you” and take part in the wrong doing. In this case both of you are aware at the time of the investigation that what the two of you are doing is illegal, a misconduct or wrong or sins against the truth reposed in you.

Now two things happen after you are caught in the act. The journalist collects lots of tape since they use hidden cameras. The camera is activated after dressing so it records from when the journalist sets off till he or she is done with you for the day. A whole lot of materials are collected. Many of them not relevant. Just like when your local tv station goes out to cover say the recent flooding. They film a lot of stuff but when they return, the non-relevant portions are edited and then a package is made and presented as what is news. You can debate for years on this but the journalists and editorial team decide which ones will tell you the viewer what happened. It is a standard journalist practice-That is why can CNN, New York Times, Sky in UK or BBC always determine what you watch out of the events they cover. Even in football, apart from the match being live, Super Sports or GTV sports will present to those of you who missed the match or want to watch again, the highlights, except it is a replay. Every journalist does editing, even print journalists let alone broadcast material. The important thing in editing is not to distort facts but fidelity to the facts and take out unnecessary materials for purposes of viewing.

So back to the sting operation, the journalist will present the work to the public in this case public viewing. However even when people are caught “in flagrante delicto”(caught red-handed), the law requires they be taken through a procedure. And because people will raise objections and create doubt about the work, that is why the “footage”(unedited video) is submitted to the investigative bodies and all other evidence including inculpatory and exculpatory (relevant and irrelevant) ones are submitted to help in investigations.

That is why the Journalist and his team are also required to be around to be cross-examined on the evidence they have presented. Remember this whole part is when an investigative body is looking into the matter for instance a petition has been sent to FIFA, EOCO, AG and co, they will go through these processes.

However, if the people the journalist caught feel strongly that the evidence against them falls below the threshold of conviction, they can equally take a civil action against the journalist. i.e sue for breach of privacy or say defamation. But the defence of public interest have always overshadowed this type of law suit. In this instance the burden will be for the journalist to substantiate the allegations he has made with evidence. The evidence will then be weighed by the Court. This is where for instance Mr Nyantakyi says I will go to Court.

In fact a person aggrieved by this investigations can also petition police or the Attorney General to institute criminal proceedings against the journalist if at the end of the day the so called evidence were lies.