16 May 2013

Pastor TB Joshua’s Bodyguards Detain Journalists In Ghana

Nigeria’s controversial “miracle man,” Prophet T.B. Joshua, has a lot of influence in Ghana emanating not only from his close association with deceased President John Atta-Mills but also from his ties to some high-ranking members of the New Patriotic Party. But a recent incident in which Mr. Joshua’s bodyguards detained some journalists in Ghana has revealed the level of influence and power he actually wields in the West African nation.On May 7, 2013, Mr. Joshua, who is the General Overseer of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), landed in Accra for a special event at the Spintex Road branch of his church. Media reports indicate that the event was well hyped and that a huge crowd flocked to the venue to see the renowned televangelist. The crush of people created a traffic nightmare on Spintex Road. T.B. Joshua’s program was billed to start at 7 a.m. However, many of his followers started arriving as early as 2 a.m. Since Ghana’s Police Motor and Traffic Unit (MTTU) had not been advised of the event, no preparation was made to contain the situation. Consequently, many motorists were caught up in the horrendous traffic snarl for hours.The event had also attracted a lot of press attention, but two journalists who went there to cover the resultant traffic chaos were seized by bodyguards ostensibly hired by the church to protect Pastor Joshua. In brash contravention of Ghanaian laws, the bodyguards detained Emmanuel Anteh and his cameraman Gilbert Azu of the Multimedia Group for over two hours. Another group of journalists, Abdul Wahab Giwah and Seth Yeboah, cameramen from Net 2 Television, were also detained for over six hours.According to Mr. Anteh, the bodyguards approached them as they were filming the crowd and invited them into the church, promising to give them a better spot to film from. But once the cameramen were lured into the church premises, the bodyguards tried to confiscate their equipment. The journalists were then locked up in a room where the reporters from Net 2 TV were already being held. After several hours, Superintendent Alex Kumankani of the Ghana Police Service intervened and the hostages were released. The illegal detention of reporters has sparked widespread condemnation from civil society groups and activists. The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) called for an apology from the church, which the church reportedly tendered. A source said the General Overseer even invited the journalists to personally apologize to them, but this development was not confirmed. However,the Church hierarchy issued a prompt apology. Despite the church’s apology, many Ghanaian civil society advocates are wondering how the bodyguards took the license to stop journalists from carrying out their duties. “Did the bodyguards have the right to place journalists under arrest?” asked an Accra-based lawyer.

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