Investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas seems not disturbed by moves of some judges to stop the screening of his video on judicial corruption. He cautioned, the judges’ action is tantamount to gagging the voice of the people – the media.
Anas, whose work exposed 34 judges allegedly accepting bribes to set criminal free, is hopeful the legal challenges mounted against public viewing of the video would not succeed.
Anas and his Tiger Eye PI team were forced to call off plans to screen the video in the Ashanti regional capital, Kumasi, a few hours before the event was due to take off.
One of the judges caught on video allegedly taking bribes, Justice Paul Dery had gone to the Kumasi High Court to seek a restraining order on Tiger Eye and Golden Tulip, venue for the event.
Anas has however acknowledged the right of the embattled judges to contest his work in court but he stressed “The matter is far from being over and we are confident that the truth will eventually come out.” in a press release on Friday.
“It was expected that some of those affected would fight tooth and nail to stop you from watching the video. That is fair. That is their right. But throughout history, whenever individuals try to gag the media, it is the voice of the people – men and women like you – that rises to say that ‘we cannot, will not and should not be silenced’,”
Anas still holds the view that the public have a right to know how justice is dispensed in Ghana and “to know that there are good judges and the bad ones who are not fit to wear a robe and a wig, and sit in judgment over the rest of us.”
BELOW IS THE FULL STATEMENT
We have been informed of the filing and service of a fresh law suit against us and all our media partners (ultimate fm) and selected venues (Golden Tulip) in Kumasi, seeking to stop the screening of the documentary titled Ghana In The Eyes of God in Kumasi.
These are interesting days for press freedom and the fight to expose corruption in Ghana. The most powerful tool against corruption is transparency and exposure. Our stand and fight against corruption is a responsibility to the past, the present and unborn generations. It is about the rights of people, the need to know what happens not only on the streets, but in the highest reaches of power, even our corridors of justice.
Let me start by thanking all who have watched or are anxious to watch our latest expose on wrong doing in this country. Clearly, we have stepped on the toes of some of the most powerful people in our society, the result of which are attempts to stop us from showing this film. I however believe that this is temporary. The matter is far from being over and we are confident that the truth will eventually come out. We believe that the President, Chief Justice, Judicial Council and the courts have so far demonstrated enough commitment to root out this canker. It was expected that some of those affected would fight tooth and nail to stop you from watching the video. That is fair. That is their right. But throughout history, whenever individuals try to gag the media, it is the voice of the people – men and women like you – that rises to say that “we cannot, will not and should not be silenced.”
As a journalist and a lawyer I understand and respect that interpretation and enforcement of the law is the sole preserve of the judiciary and so I will abide by the law which prohibits me from taking any steps that will prejudice the outcome of the pending injunction application. However, saddened I am at the deliberate attempt to prevent me from serving the public interest which my profession obligates me to, through showing you this video, I am convinced that we must allow due process to drive our actions at all times.
In the two years that it took us to undertake this investigation, we strived to abide by the ethical tenets of our profession and the constitutional obligation imposed all of us as citizens to uphold the principles of accountability, transparency and probity. The same Constitution also charges the media in particular to “uphold the underlying constitutional values and principles of transparency, probity and accountability.”
It is not for nothing the media are considered the fourth branch of the state. Ours is a responsibility to inform the public accurately, a fundamental function in any democracy. We are the watchdogs of the three branches of government – the executive, legislature and the judiciary. Therefore our investigation into the judiciary is motivated by the responsibility we bear to keep the public informed of the activities of those whose work profoundly affect the quality of our democracy and the lives of our people.
As journalists, and in wanting to share the findings from our undercover journalism with the public, your right to know is our main concern. Our loyalty is to you, the citizens. You have a right to know how justice is dispensed in this country, and to know that there are good judges and the bad ones who are not fit to wear a robe and a wig, and sit in judgment over the rest of us. Your right to know is constitutionally guaranteed as a fundamental human right.
That is why the Constitution frowns on censorship of the media by guaranteeing the freedom and independence of the media under Chapter 12, and stating in article 162(2) that, “subject to this Constitution and any other law not inconsistent with this Constitution, there shall be no censorship in Ghana.”
We respect and believe in a strong and independent judiciary and that attempts to use the courts to impose censorship, to muzzle the media and to strike a blow against the hard won freedoms of the media and of free expression in this country, especially in a matter of such unparalleled public interest will not succeed.
It should be neither a crime nor a civil wrong for the media to expose criminal behavior and those who work against the interests of citizens, and to show it to all citizens. That is why journalists must not have to get approval before their stories are published. This is what is known internationally as prior restraint. That is why journalists, all who care about press freedom and indeed all citizens, ought to be worried about attempts to stop you from watching this video.
Undercover reporting, such as we employed to expose judicial corruption, has brought to light numerous atrocities throughout history and led to institutional reforms elsewhere. We firmly believe that in this country also investigative journalism must lead to righting the wrongs in our society. For that to happen it is important that the media is allowed the freedom to do its work professionally and ethically.
We think that therefore all citizens who cherish press freedom, their individual rights to free speech and their constitutional obligation to expose wrongdoing in high places must watch the unfolding events closely, and speak out against all attempts to stop you from seeing in practice the acts of those who have hitherto be seen by all as having the moral turpitude to be called “judges”.
I salute those judges who proved to be incorruptible, the Chief Justice and the Ghana Bar Association for remaining resolute in the face of this scandal.
Thank you all.