The Director of the Public Affairs Directorate of the Ghana Armed Forces, Col M’bawine Atintande, has apologised to the media for the assault of two journalists by some military personnel during the independence day celebration on March 6, this year.
While conceding that the incident was unfortunate, Col Atintande said it was important for the journalists to put the incident behind them and cooperate with the military to chart a way forward to prevent an occurrence in future.
Col Atintande rendered the apology when he interacted with members of the Editorial Conference of the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday.
He was accompanied by a three-member team from the military. Also in attendance was Nii Martey Botchway, a photographer of the Daily Graphic whose genitals were said to have been subjected to electric shock.
Without wanting to go into the details of the incident, its investigations and subsequent public reaction, Col Atintande said, the military and media had enjoyed a long-standing mutually beneficial relationship and it was crucial that the two entities sustained such camaraderie instead of allowing the incident to become a wedge between them.
Two journalists accredited to cover the country’s 56th Independence Anniversary Parade in Accra on March 6, this year were allegedly manhandled by some security personnel.
A Ghanaian Times photographer, Vincent Dzatse, received slaps from a security man while the Daily Graphic photographer, Nii Martey Botchway, also had his genitals subjected to electric shock because he attempted to take photographs of President John Mahama who was exchanging pleasantries with chiefs and leaders of political parties at the parade ground.
The Ghanaian Times photographer, who is also the presidential photographer, said he was slapped several times by a military policeman. His colleague from the Graphic also said he was dragged and pushed around by the other security men.
The government, disturbed by the incident, asked the military to investigate the matter. After the investigations, the GAF sent a report to the Ghanaian Times as well as the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), indicating that their men did nothing wrong and that they (soldiers) only used ‘minimum force’ to ensure that the laws were adhered to.
Details of the report were subsequently published in the Thursday, April 25, 2013 edition of the Ghanaian Times.
Many journalists have been angered by the military’s attempts to justify the assault of the two journalists.
Col Atintande said it was important for the media and the military to recognise that although the roles of each other might be different, they were all intended to serve the common interest of the state.
He said the military always had a commander who oversaw the activities of the soldiers at public functions and advised that any time the media had difficulties performing their duties, it was advisable for them to communicate with such an officer to create avenues for them to play their roles.
On the way forward, Col Atintande suggested that a corps of reporters should be put together to cover military functions so that such occurences could be minimised.
Welcoming Col Atintande and his team, Mr Ransford Tetteh, the Editor of the Daily Graphic, said although journalists were not comfortable with attempts by the military to justify the assault on the two journalists, the initiative by the Public Affairs Directorate to reach out to the media in an attempt to patch up and build the rapprochement was commendable.
He said a delegation from the Ghana Journalists Association would be meeting the Chief of the Defence Staff today to further deliberate on the matter and find a way forward.
He gave the opportunity to the photographer to express his feelings.
Mr Botchway said he had been traumatised by the incident particularly so when he had become a laughing stock and subject of discussion among his friends and in his neighbourhood.
He asked for compensation from the military.