Two prominent personalities have justified the methods used by investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas in his undercover journalism work at a forum organised by the African Center for International Law and Accountability (ACILA).
The discussion on undercover journalism was under the theme ‘The ethics, public interest and the law’.
In the discussion, one of the panellists, Esther Armah, an international journalist for British Broadcast Corporation (BBC), who was in support of the method used by Anas, said journalists’ first obligation is to the truth, and their first loyalty is to the citizens.
Therefore, she argued that regardless of whatever length a journalist would go to uncover the truth, even if through subterfuge, public interest must be at the centre of your work.
By supporting the methodology of the undercover journalist, she stated that “undercover should be the last resort after all means of getting the information has been exhausted”.
In addition, she defended Anas’ work as a means to uncover the truth.
She explained further that before a journalist goes on to uncover a hidden truth, the journalist has to gather enough information pointing to a wrongdoing.
A lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) and a Legal Practitioner, Zakaria Tanko Musah also said before an undercover journalist unravels a hidden truth, he must have some hints of corrupt practices, which must be of public interest.
A private legal practitioner, Nii Kpakpo Samoa Addo kicked against the method used by the undercover journalist to unearth wrongdoing in the society, citing breach of privacy to back his argument.
Nii Kpakpo Addo is currently at the Economic Community of West Africa State (ECOWAS) Court as defence counsel for three judges who appeared in an exposé on the judiciary by the ace journalist.
The methodology used by Anas to unearth wrongdoing in the society is not the right way, he said.
According to him, the use of hidden cameras and microphones to record the visuals and audios of a person of interest without the consent while inducing the person to perform the unlawful act is not right.
He quoted Article 18 (2) of the 1992 Constitution to support his argument on breach of privacy.
He said Anas’ method infringes on the privacy of people he uncovers. He records the individuals without their consent, which the law of the country frowns on.
This debate was triggered by Anas’ latest exposé, dubbed ‘Number 12’, which was premiered at the Accra International Conference Centre on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. The exposé has caused an uproar in the country.
Other panellists said that if the methodology used by the journalist to unearth wrongdoing is analysed and accepted by the court, then he can continue using it.
Aside the discussion of the methodology of Anas’ work, there was also a launch of a fund to support investigative journalism in the country.
Former Commissioner for the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Justice Emile Francis Short launched the fund.
Justice Emile Francis Short said: “I’m a Human Right Activist but also an anti-corruptionist, and I support Anas’ methodology.”
The Executive Director of ACILA, William Nyarko introduced the organisation and how it deals with international human rights and rule of law issues.
He further explained why their main focus is on investigative journalism.
He said, “Our organisation is an anti-corruption one, that’s why we have expressed interest in that field.”