Ghana has a proud tradition of investigative reporting. Its latest practitioner is Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who specialises in going undercover. He's exposed corruption in cocoa smuggling, the running of mental homes and orphanages, and most recently at the country's main port. Seems apt that he works for a newspaper called The New Crusading Guide. By BAAFOO AHENKORA.
For every generation, there arise notable journalists who serve as the faces of the profession in their countries. These journalists mesmerise us with their reportage in the midst of disaster, or they suffer at the hands of a brutal regime or they uncover a clandestine criminal operation. Whatever the circumstances that shoot them into the limelight, they serve as the epitome of excellence, inspiring their colleagues to greater heights and motivating the younger generation to seriously consider journalism as a profession.
Ghana has had its fair share of journalistic heroes. There are those of the old stock, who through their ordeals at the hands of cruel military regimes became famous for standing their ground. Kwaku Baako Jnr, Kwasi Pratt Jnr, Haruna Atta and Ben Ephson all suffered injustices from the early '80s to the late '90s when Ghana's media landscape was closely monitored by the government's cruel prying eyes. These journalists were seen as enemies of the regime and were imprisoned without a fair trial – Baako and Pratt were even tortured.
These men have also, over the years, established themselves as experts in what they do. They all edit their own newspapers and play influential roles in our media. Baako edits The New Crusading Guide, Pratt the Insight Newspaper, Ephson the Daily Dispatch and Atta the Accra Mail. Baako and Pratt are probably the commentators with the most acute awareness of our history and how it affects the current discourse on politics. Ephson is the most respected pollster, forecasting elections – often with great accuracy.
Watch Anas Aremeyaw's Anas's cocoa invesigation, part one:
Kwaku Sakyi Addo, two time journalist of the year, also mesmerises the country with his supreme command of the English language and uncanny ability to report on political issues. He hosts Newsfile on Joy FM, a news analysis programme with a wide audience that discusses the most pressing issues (mainly political) of the day.
In recent times, one journalist has established himself as perhaps the most capable undercover investigator in the country's history. Whether it is pretending to be a madman in the country's largest madhouse, or dressing like a woman to care for orphaned children, or pretending to be a cocoa smuggler in to test the porousness of our borders, Anas Aremeyaw Anas has uncovered some of the most despicable clandestine intrigues in the country.
Anas is deputy editor of the New Crusading Guide, under editor-in-chief Baako, himself a heavyweight in Ghanaian investigative journalism. Baako, having taught himself the rubrics of the trade on the job, has successfully uncovered a number of criminal undertakings. The most significant of these was the exposure of the Jack Bebli gold robbery scandal, in which a former senior army officer connived with a few of his peers to hijack a vehicle carrying gold bars. Baako won the Ghana Journalists Association's journalist of the year award for 1999 for uncovering this secret ploy, among other investigations.
Watch Enemies of the Nation: Anas Aremeyaw Anas's investigation of Tema Port:
The autonomy with which Baako has prosecuted his career is commendable, having never undergone formal training as a journalist until he was offered a free advanced course in journalism as part of his journalist of the year award. This autonomy may have moulded his protégé, Anas, who also owns his own private investigative firm, even though he has not had any formal training in conducting the high-profile investigations he so skilfully executes.
Anas was awarded the GJA's journalist of the year award in again 2006 for exposing the rot at a food-processing company where he pretended to be a cleaner. Part of his duties was to mix maggot-infested flour to be used in the making biscuits for the Ghanaian market. He has also won a plethora of awards for his other investigative endeavours. When US President Barack Obama visited Ghana in July 2009, he praised Anas in his speech to parliament, noting his efforts in exposing a Chinese human-trafficking syndicate at the risk of his own life. This investigation led to the conviction of the criminals.
Anas's most recent sleuthing focused on the activities of customs officials at the Tema port. In this exposé, he showed how easy it was to obtain a top-secret password just by bribing one of the officials. Even though most Ghanaians had an inkling of the corruption at the port, Anas's investigation created shock waves in the nation owing to its graphic nature. His uncanny ability to depict the stories he covers with footage from hidden cameras makes his exposés suspenseful and thrilling.
Even though Anas's stories have brought sensitive issues of national concern under the spotlight, it is not clear if they will yield the desired results in society. For instance, in the case resulting from his investigations of the complicity of customs officials in the smuggling of cocoa to Cote d’Ivoire on our western borders, the 14 security officials who were apprehended were discharged for want of prosecution. Anas has intimated that this does not diminish his resolve to uncover the rot in our society, but it shows how state institutions themselves may be unwilling to live up to their task of addressing corruption in the society.
Beyond his fame as an investigator, Anas's passion to serve the national good will make him a venerable role model – one to whom the next generation of journalists looks for inspiration. FAM
Baafoo Ahenkora is the pen name of a Ghanaian freelance writer who lives in New York, the US. You can read his blog, Ghana Biased.
- Editor dares government to confirm or deny gold robbery story, at Ghana Web,
- Crusading Guide's Anas is 2006 journalist of the year, at Ghana Web;
- President Obama praises conviction of human traffickers in Ghana, at UN Office on Drugs and Crime;
- Court discharges 'Anas cocoa smugglers', at Joy FM.
Main photo: A fireball explodes at Ghana's main port of Tema after a Greek vessel caught fire, killing at least three people and damaging the west African country's only oil refinery and the supply belt to its Valco aluminum smelter, March 25, 2005. Up to 14 others were feared dead after they were trapped by flames and scorching heat. REUTERS.
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