Contrary to video and pictorial evidence clearly showing military policemen assaulting photojournalists from state-owned Ghanaian Times and Daily Graphic newspapers during Ghana’s 56th independence anniversary on March 6, 2013, the Ghana Armed forces (GAF) has stuck to its guns, saying there was no assault whatsoever.
Late last week, after the GAF issued a controversial report to back their claims, Multi-TV’s Evans Mensah questioned the Director of Public Relations of GAF, Col. Mbawine Atintande, who insisted “nobody was slapped.”
When confronted with photo evidence that the hands of a military policeman was clearly seen laying smack on the face of Vincent Dzatse of the Ghanaian Times in a gesture proving an aftermath of a hefty slap to the face, Col. Atintande reasons that the gesture may merely be a cheek caress from the angry looking military policeman captured in the shot of several cameras. “….a hand on the cheek doesn’t mean a slap.
If I put my hand on your cheek, does it mean I have slapped you?” the spokesperson of the armed forces questioned, indicating that the hand in cheek was friendly encounter.
In Col. Atintande’s logic, a matter of slapping is a relative conclusion; “If you say I have slapped you and I have not slapped you then that is the truth; I have not slapped you, not because you have said I have slapped you that makes it a slap,” he retorted during the interview with Multi TV.
After almost two months of intense public outcry about the high-handedness of the military during the anniversary celebration last week, the military finally released its findings from a secret investigation conducted by an unknown panel.
Interestingly, DAILY GUIDE learnt that the victims were not interviewed by the investigative team.
Essentially, the report exonerated two men of the Military Police Unit who allegedly assaulted the aggrieved photo journalists.
The report was sent to the Ghanaian Times with a cover letter written by the GAF Director of Public Relation, who insisted that the men of the military police unit were found innocent of any wrongdoing
“The outcome of the investigation, diligently and dispassionately conducted, suggests no wrongdoing on the part of soldiers, as they acted within the rules and guidelines governing the activities at the time of the anniversary parade,” Atintande wrote.
However, Mr. Vincent, a Ghanaian Times Presidential cameraman who had followed President Mahama closely in all his official assignments, had claimed that in an attempt to take shots of President Mahama on the dais during the anniversary, the military policemen prevented him, and in his protest, he had been punched in the manhood with a truncheon, hit on the head and pushed down, leading to the tearing of his shirt and damaging of his camera.
Meanwhile, another cameraman, Nii Martey Botchway from the Daily Graphic had faced a similar fate that day, according to him, while carrying out his duty and without provocation, a military policeman, one Warrant Officer (WO) Cudjoe, electrocuted his penis with a taser and forced him from an alleged security perimeter on the Independence grounds.
Ebow Hanson, of the Daily Graphic, journalists from DAILY GUIDE and other journalists corroborated the story of the assault saying they clearly saw the military men manhandling the journalist.
The umbrella body of the journalists in Ghana, the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) doubts the findings in the GAF report.
Bright Blewu, the General Secretary of GJA told DAILY GUIDE that the body has conducted its own investigations and it would soon make public the findings.
Critics have dismissed the GAF investigations as being biased because the investigation in typical military style was kept under wraps.
Besides, there was no evidence that the subjects interviewed were none other than military personnel who only told their own side of the story.
Indeed, the victims from the press have confirmed that they were never approached during the purported GAF investigations to present their side of the story.
This is confirmed by the fact that it was stated nowhere in the report that the civilians were invited in the course of the investigations.
Nobody knows the constituents of the panel of enquiry or the dates the enquiry began.
Freeman Tettey To The Rescue
Perhaps the only outsider in the compilation of the military report was Accra Regional Police Public Relations Officer who allegedly stated in the report that there was no physical assault on the journalists.
Meanwhile, on the day, Freeman Tettey was seen rescuing the journalist from the brutal assault of the military police.
Interestingly, the report tried to explain the involvement of DSP Freeman Tettey, saying even though he was not on the scene, the noise from the commotion attracted him to the scene.
“In an interview with the Public Relations Officer of the Accra Regional Command, DSP Freeman Tettey, he narrated that a scene and noise behind the Presidential dais attracted him.
That when he arrived at the spot, he saw some Military Policemen struggling with Vincent Dzatse, and he managed, with the assistance of some National Security personnel, whose names he could not give offhand, to calm the situation,” the GAF report stated.
Col. Atintande has vehemently refused to name the members of the committee of enquiry, saying, “It is within our own rights to do the investigation.”
By Raphael Ofori-Adeniran