By Agnes Ansah .
The blue and white background of the Ghana International Press Center was turned into a sea of black and red colours last Friday, as men and women of the inky fraternity, both Ghana and abroad, thronged the place to bid farewell to Ahmed Hussein Suale.
One after the other, the leaders mounted the podium and delivered their solidarity messages.
The theme that hummed through all the messages read by the ten of them was “Justice for Ahmed”.
Mr Suale was a Ghanaian undercover investigative journalist and an associate fellow of Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas. He died on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, when unidentified men on a motorbike shot him three times – twice in the chest and once in his neck – in his vehicle.
Though he had already been buried, the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) thought it fitting to organise a farewell service, in order to afford those who couldn’t be at the burial service on that fateful Wednesday, the opportunity to bid their colleague farewell.
The story would have been different if he were to belong to a different religious background. But Mr Suale was a Moslem, and custom demands that a person from his religious background be buried a few hours after his demise, a situation that prevented many journalists from being at his burial.
The turnout was low, though the event was given much publicity, but most veteran journalists made it a point to be there.
Some of these veterans seen occupying the seats were Mr Sulemana Braimah, a seasoned journalist and Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa, and Mr Edwin Arthur, Editor of the New Independent, Mr Abdul Malik Kwaku Baako, Managing Editor of the New Crusading Guide, and the embattled investigative Journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas whose arrival got almost all the cameras running to get a glimpse and shot of him.
Some politicians, who were also there to mourn with the GJA, were Mr Pious Enam Hadzide, Deputy Minister of Information, Mr Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, Member of Parliament (MP) for Asawase, and Alhaji Alhassan Suhuyini, Member of Parliament for Tamale North, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Minority Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, and Mr Abu-Bakar Saddique Boniface, MP, Madina.
Some press freedom advocates were also there to show their support. They included UNESCO, Amnesty International, Media Foundation for West Africa, National Media Commission and the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association.
Since Mr Suale’s works spanned across world, the international media also came around to show their support. Representatives from the BBC were around to bid their colleague farewell.
The family of the deceased would not be left out. About five of them, led by Mr Iddrisu Mustapha, sat under one of the tents and observed the proceedings.
And the police, who had received some rather unfortunate comments about their reluctance in coming out with information concerning the investigations, were also there to show support.
Mr Roland Affail Monney, GJA President, mounted the podium at 10:45 and delivered his welcome address.
The GJA President indicated that the reason for the gathering wasn’t only to bid their colleague farewell, but also to mount pressure on the security services to beef up their investigations on Mr Suale’s assassins, a purpose which was somehow fulfilled, as the police indicated that six suspects had been arrested in connection with the murder.
He also indicated that Mr Suale’s death could have a chilling effect on press freedom and the right of journalists to carry out their noble service to humanity, hence the association deemed it fitting to bring its members together and encourage them not to lose hope, but continue to fight to defend the rights and expand the frontiers of freedom, the oxygen of the profession which some of the veterans present have fought hard to achieve.
Indeed, the Ghanaian press has passed through the gutters and tatters to be where it is today.
During the pre-colonial, post-colonial and when Ghana transitioned into constitutional rule, the press was being controlled by the government of the day. Private press critical of the government had their editors thrown into prison due to some obnoxious laws, including the criminal libel law, that were in place. Others, including Ebo Quansah, had to flee the country to seek asylum abroad.
But, in 2000, the John Agyekum Kufuor government repealed the last obnoxious law, the criminal libel law, which eventually gave the press the full free space to operate. Just last year, Ghana was ranked number 1 in Africa and 23 in the whole world on press freedom.
This remarkable success, the GJA President indicated, should not be thrown into the gutter, but maintained. He called on all journalists to not let the brutal murder of Mr Suale draw them back, but rather unite them.
“We should close our ranks and sharpen our focus on issues, which bother us all – issues which can push as forward and not draw us backward.”