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Dangers of investigative journalism: This is why Anas needs heavy protection.

Newsbuzz 06/29/2020

View pictures in App save up to 80% data. The average journalist working in other parts of the world is in no more danger than any other white-collar worker, except perhaps in very rare cases when they are covering a violent situation or exposing a violent organisation. But it's not a factor that most journalists ever need to worry about.

Investigative journalism plays a critical role in serving society by detecting and exposing corruption, enhancing transparency, and reinforcing public opinion. It is meant to uncover hidden facts; this means “going after what someone wants to hide” (H. de Burgh, , p. 15). For this reason, investigative journalists “often shoulder the responsibility for uncovering corruption and wrongdoing” (H. de Burgh, ; Kaplan, 2008; O’Neil, 2010 as cited in Almania, , p. 3). They do not rely on speeches by public officials and government spokespersons as is often the case in routine news reporting. Another defining characteristic of investigative journalism and its variant, undercover reporting is that it seeks to expose unethical, immoral and illegal behaviour by government officials, politicians as well as private citizens Kovach and Rosentiel (). It has the potential to make a worthwhile contribution to society by “drawing attention to failures within society’s systems of regulation and to the ways in which those systems can be circumvented by the rich, the powerful and the corrupt” (H. de Burgh, ).

Investigative journalism is not widely practised in Ghana and therefore not popular in its methods and approach to uncovering hidden facts about corruption fostered often by systemic failures and the forces of institutional inertia. It is a costly venture in time and finances and only a few editors and media owners would want to embark on investigative reporting. Though there had been some investigative reporting in the country’s media in the 1970’s through the very early 1990’s, the few available media at the time with a proportionately limited audience did not make such work stand out.

Over the past one and a half decades or two, the investigative work of one journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, has gained prominence beyond the shores of Ghana, and many people now appear to appreciate a sense of what this genre of journalism is all about. Not surprisingly, a section of the public has questioned the journalist’s techniques and approach to obtaining information. So also have the works of another Ghanaian journalist, Manasseh Azure Awuni, unsettled many who have been exposed in underhand dealings. Quite often the “methods of obtaining information employed by journalists define the line and reflect the tension between the public’s right to know the truth and an individual’s claim to anonymity and privacy” (Mustapha-Koiki & Ayedun-Aluma, , p. 543).

The purpose of this article is to critically examine the complexity of balancing public interest and individual rights in the use of investigative journalism to combat corruption. The study was guided by the following research question: To what extent is the use of evasive techniques in investigative reporting justifiable?

In June 2018, Anas and his Tiger Eye P.I crew released a documentary on corruption in Football in Africa with Ghana at the centre that showed country’s football president, Kwesi Nyantakyi, and hundreds of local and international referees and officials taking cash bribes and gifts. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) banned and suspended most of the referees and subsequently led to the dissolution of the Ghana Football Association and the suspension of the local football league for a year.

This was not the first time allegations of corruption had been raised about football in the country, but it was the first time that hardcore evidence had been produced to back the notorious allegations. But some of the culprits in the documentary challenged the method used to obtain the evidence in court. They argued the method was an entrapment, which infringed on their individual right to privacy. However, the High Court siting in Accra ruled in favour of Anas and Tiger Eye P.I. The court held that the recording, although without the applicants’ consent, was of utmost interest to Ghanaians, whose love for football was unmatched.

It is a fact that investigative reporting “not only demands the highest standards of accuracy but also delivers more ethical dilemmas on a daily basis than almost any other form of journalism” (Houston, , p. 108). A core assumption of this study is that in satisfying the public’s right to know, investigative reporting techniques such as sting operations, impersonation, secret video recording as employed in the exposés infringe on the individual’s right to privacy. The study relied on documentations as secondary sources for some of its data.

People in leadership positions, especially senior public officials, often try to conceal vital information about wrongdoing or under-performance in their organisations from the public. Some of them are either under oath to not divulge such information, or they do so deliberately to protect themselves and their work. Investigative journalists digging to get to the bottom of a public interest matter do so in their watchdog role and as a duty they owe society. In the event of probable difficulties in getting access to information that is being concealed, they employ various techniques to access it. On the basis of this problematic, this paper examines the evasive techniques, used in selected exposés for this study, particularly the work of Anas Aremeyaw Anas, and determines whether they infringe on the privacy of individuals involved in these scandals while trying to achieve the right of the public to know. The study is limited in scope to the works of Anas and Awuni because of the controversy some of the videos have stirred regarding their approach.

Source: opera.com
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