There is a saying that “you cannot do today’s business with yesterday’s tools and hope to achieve success tomorrow.” If I may borrow that to today’s investigative journalism, one cannot investigate today’s sophisticated crimes with yesterday’s approach to investigative journalism and hope to be a successful investigative journalist tomorrow.
In this day and age, how could any serious investigative journalist achieve any meaningful strides without resorting to undercover means? Even well-acclaimed news outlets such as BBC, Aljazeera and CNN use undercover means to expose corruption and other untoward acts in society.
At a time when face-to-face interviews has taken to the back seat in favour of email, skype, live streaming, messenger chats and many others, how can one rely on such a document that has outlived its usefulness to assess Anas’ work? I stand corrected. I do not think that at the time the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) sought to prepare and compose its code of ethics and professional standards, the use of email, skype, viber, whatsapp, and other modern communication methods were in existence. Times have changed, and, ultimately, technology has changed the way we go about our normal duties these days.
As recent as May 2018, a Channel 4 undercover reporter’s work led to the collapse of a renowned research firm in UK – Cambridge Analytica. The company was involved in sleaze, psychological manipulation, and data misuse. This Channel 4 undercover reporter feigned being a Sri Lankan businessman wanting to influence a local election and secretly filmed Cambridge Analytica boss Alexander Nix. Alexander Nix gave examples of how his firm could discredit political rivals by arranging various smear campaigns, including setting up encounters with prostitutes and staging situations in which apparent bribery could be caught on camera. He told the reporter that the firm could “send Ukrainian girls to tarnish an opposition candidate.” Through the undercover investigations it came out around 50 million facebook profiles were illegally and unethically used for President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Again, to enable it to gain insight into the workings of a leading pro-Israel organisation called The Israel Project, which is based in Washington DC, the Aljazeera sent an undercover reporter, James Anthony Kleinfeld by name, who volunteered as an intern for the lobby organisation. Aljazeera initially denied knowledge about this when it came out, but later admitted publicly that it knew about the undercover reporter’s investigation. Kleinfeld, a British-born pro-Palestinian activist, used a different name when he applied for jobs in the pro-Israel organisation. After joining the organisation, he succeeded to become a pro-Israel activist, a situation that enabled him access very sensitive pieces of information, including files. Indeed, it later surfaced that Aljazeera rented an apartment that cost $5,000 a month, where Kleinfeld fixed gadgets to secretly record Israeli embassy staff whom he invited to parties in that apartment. Aljazeera later televised a full documentary, detailing the lobby group’s agenda, sources of funding, and a lot more.
These are not isolated cases. Charles Moore, a former Daily Telegraph Editor in the UK, legitimately registered to vote both in Sussex and London, and indeed voted twice in the Brexit referendum to “expose security flaws in the voting system”. Mr. Moore cast his first vote in Sussex, and then travelled to London where he secured another ballot paper for the second vote, but he spoiled the ballot paper. On the second ballot paper he wrote “I am spoiling my ballot because I have already voted… This second vote is my protest at how lax the voting rules are.” The UK Electoral Commission referred him to the police for double voting, but the case was dropped later.
Also, preparing for a G8 Summit in Scotland, a reporter secretly recorded a private conversation among three known world leaders – Jacques Chirac of France, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder – who had met at a Russian café and were mocking the UK people as “mad cow” producers with bad cuisines. This was later published in the French newspaper, Liberation.
For those criticising Anas’ methods and trying to incite the public against him – sometimes exposing him to physical harm – they should be told in plain language that either they are living in the past, or they are up to something. Kennedy Agyapong wants Ghanaians to think so, because he believes Annas is going too far. Ghanaians will think, but will think along with those who would help us find solutions to the incessant casualties on our roads through avoidable accidents. We will think along with those ready to find solutions to serious drug abuses amongst our youth. Smoking Indian hemp and Shisha among our youth has become the order of the day. Shisha, in particular, has become a status symbol for our young girls and boys who troop to bars to smoke it. We will not think that because Annas is exposing high profile corruptions through some methods, we should see them as Kennedy Agyapong sees it as inappropriate.
Through Anas’ modus operandi, judges have been sacked, Customs officers dismissed and some orphanages closed down or scrutinised. To the extent that the New Patriotic Party (NPP), then in opposition in 2011, issued a statement to congratulate Anas when he came out with his investigations at the Tema Port, a situation that compelled the late President Prof. Mills to go to Tema to reprimand Customs officers. All these times, where were the critics, and where was Kennedy Agyapong when his party, NPP, congratulated Anas. It is also a fact that some persons who had been caught in his previous escapades were exonerated because the evidences against them were wobbly adduced. However, some of Anas’ works have exposed some people who see corruption as an acceptable norm in Ghana.
Kennedy Agyapong has been very good at exposing corruption within state institutions. He is always on TV and on radio doing that. And, more often than not, he releases documents to support his claims. Between 2009 and 2016, he was very aggressive on that. Indeed, if President Mahama and his National Democratic Congress (NDC) were voted out in 2016 on issues of corruption, Kennedy Agyapong will go down in history as one of the major architects who got the electorate to vote the NDC out of power. In his “crusade” against NDC on corruption, I would want to believe that he got those documents officially by way of making official contacts to get such documents. But, if he has been using unofficial means to get those pieces of information and supporting documents, following from which he goes to town and make noise about them, then I guess he too is wrong if he thinks Annas is wrong.
For him to criticise Annas because he uses undercover means to get his story is a clear display of double standards. I would like to maintain that if you are a public officer and you want to take bribes in your bedroom, because you feel that place is the best to conceal your deeds, and Annas exposes you through undercover means, so be it.
I accept without verifying that Anas clears his goods from the harbour for free, as he says. And so, what? And I repeat, and so what? It is not uncommon to have a situation such that people like Anas will have some privileges that other citizens do not have. As a Member of Parliament, Kennedy Agyapong has a wide range of benefits and privileges that the ordinary electorate who voted for him cannot have a “one-hundredth” of it. So, to knock his head with his finger asking Ghanaians to think – which, in itself, is an insult to Ghanaians – because Annas clears his goods for free was nothing to write home about.
Assuming that is true, Annas is not the only person doing that. In any case, can he just go to the port and tell them that he wants to clear his goods for free? The answer is no! That may come out as a result of some arrangements made by authorities. When Ghana realised the need to take steps to entice our medical doctors to stay, the government decided that they clear their vehicles for free. The state cherished doctors’ contributions to our country’s development, hence that decision. As a Special Assistant in the Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment, I learnt that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) importing certain medical equipment were not paying duty. That was a decision by the state. Indeed, this system was in place for years before it was cancelled when the government detected some abuses in it.
Are we saying that if in the course of discharging his duties, Annas did something wrong, Ghanaians should totally reject his revelations and allow people to wreck our country through corruption? By so doing, are we not endorsing corruption? Anybody who got the opportunity to witness the premiering of Anas’ video would admit that Ghanaians are ready to stamp out corruption. The scene at the International Conference Centre was as if a political party was organising a national rally. Ministers, members of parliament (MPs) and other public officials were there in their private capacities. It was not easy for the police officers present to control the crowd.
Ghana needs more of Anas to expose public officials who believe that bribery and corruption are an accepted norm. If you are clean and have a clear conscience to serve this country, you have nothing to lose when Anas conducts his investigations using undercover m