Our Anas And The Making of Ken Agyapong

Anas Aremeyaw Anas

Let me reiterate my position here; I absolutely support Anas Aremeyaw Anas and his investigative work – those done in the past and the current one. I condemn the death threats that Kennedy Agyapong has issued on Anas.

I am sure by now we have all seen the shame and the disgrace that Kwesi Nyantakyi and his men have brought unto themselves. These are people we respect in Ghana. We give them the red carpets, the high tables in churches and in mosques and celebrate them, but we prosecute and jail common people who steal bread due to hunger.

In our world, it is a common knowledge that Ghana football officials decide who wins football matches in the country even before the matches are played. So no matter how hard a team plays, the results are likely to be predetermined. To be promoted to Black Stars, Starlet, Satellite, or any of the national teams, allegedly, players are said to pay to induce coaches, management members and some government officials.

Anyway, while at it, I do not want us to ignore the issues Ken has raised against Anas – extortion and blackmail. So far, I am happy with what Kweku Baako has done; he has succeeded in refuting most of the allegations Kennedy Agyapong has made.

But this is where I will repeat the call I made last week that Anas should not stop at Kweku Baako’s media evidence. Anas should not ignore or downplay those allegations.

Let’s be honest, the issue of journalistic blackmail in this country is real. I am a journalist. But I have been a victim of blackmail from some journalists, albeit I am in the same fraternity with them.

A journalist claimed he had a damaging story about me that he intended publishing on the front page of his newspaper, and that if he went ahead to publish it, I would be “finished”. To kill the story, he therefore demanded some $300 Dollars from me. He actually showed me how the story was going to look like in print, with the headline “James Kofi Annan Exposed”.

This journalist waged a blackmail campaign against me for over a year, bringing one issue after the other to let me know the reason why I would soon go down, if I did not give him money to give to his boys to have the story killed. It is for this reason that I could not ignore Ken’s allegations against Anas of blackmail and extortion.

I therefore do not condemn Ken for alleging corruption against Anas. I do not condemn him for his blackmail and extortionist allegations. It is for Ken to prove those allegations and it is for Anas to exonerate himself, by seeking appropriate redress. The rest of us must insist on having a closure with the two individuals.

I guess I am still going to remain the odd one out by asking the question – why are we attacking Kennedy Agyapong for expressing his minority opinion? How intolerant have we become to the extent that if one does not agree with the majority, then one becomes a villain?

Social justice must necessarily be protective of minority views even if those views are a departure from what is widely seen to be acceptable.

We cannot claim to be social justice activists without protecting those who carry minority views. The fact that Anas is good at helping us unravel corrupt officials, does not necessarily mean that those who have different opinions, or those who do not accept his investigative approach should remain silent. The same constitution that gives Anas the right to practice journalism also gives Kennedy Agyapong the right to disagree with him.

Very often, we seem to want to follow the majority pattern in order to be trendy and fashionable with popular views in order to avoid alienation. But of course that is what produces mob actions, instant justice and street lynching of suspected thieves. If a few people would have dared to be different, we would not have had Major Mahama dying needlessly the way he died.

I get disturbed when, in spite of our high level of education, we still allow ‘groupthink’ to decide how we respond to issues of national interest. In the lead up to the America’s invasion of Iraq, the American press, especially the television news, kept pounding Americans with graphical reasons why America needed to invade Iraq.

According to Psysr.org, the major news networks in America put out sensational news almost exclusively on why the Bush administration was justified to attack Iraq. While at it, there were some voices that kept suggesting non combative ways of addressing the issues, but they were ignored and the war happened. Today, the international community is still working towards peace in Iraq.

Who am I to be heard when the entire Western Publications Group, the entire Multimedia Group, the entire Despite Media Group, the entire EIB media group, the entire Media General Group, and the BBC are all with one voice, drowning Kennedy Agyapong’s voice without stopping to think if there is any merit in his voice.

Anas has caught the thieves. We are all happy. But, like it happened during  Major Mahama’s death, when I virtually became the lone voice against the manner of arrests of over 50 suspects, and the unfair manner  we instantly treated them.

Today we have only 14 suspects out of the 50 we arrested in connection with the lynching of Major Mahama. The rest have all been found to be innocent and acquitted. What became of the beatings they received? One day (and that day will come) we will all admit that we should have paused to reflect on the allegations that Ken is making.

Social justice activists must respect and tolerate unpopular views even if those unpopular views offend our sensibilities. Respecting minority view is different from allowing criminals to face the law.

Ken has become extremely abusive, virtually threatening and insulting everyone, including his own colleagues in Parliament. That must be dealt with separately at its own level. We must not mix the views he is expressing with our bad perception about him.

While I support Anas and his work, and I have spoken profusely about the need for massive state security protection for him, I equally believe Kennedy Agyapong deserves same level of social justice protection, for they (Anas and Ken) have been put at risk for expressing their views differently.

Anas is definitely a popular investigative journalist in Ghana, and we all love him. But does that then mean that if a small number of citizens do not agree with him, or have problems with his work, does that mean they should not feel safe to express those dissenting views? Does the expression of opinion not form part of the journalism that we practice?

Anyway, regardless of what becomes of the ongoing debate, Kennedy Agyapong has succeeded in raising to our front pages the issue of journalistic ethics, activists’ moral courage and practice. The investigative journalism industry in Ghana will not look the same, going forward; there is likely to be a change in ethical approaches from what we have had in the past – thanks to Ken’s minority views.

From James Kofi Annan