While personnel of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) were on Friday February 23, busily fighting an inferno that eventually razed to ashes, seven shopping centers including a newsstand in Bolgatanga, some vulgar police officers were also ‘busily’ manhandling a broadcast journalist who was going about his duty.
Christopher Kevin Asima, former host of A1 Radio’s flagshift programme, DayBreaak Upper East, in Bolgatanga, was beaten up and drugged on the streets of Bolgatanga his merciless attackers for filming and taking pictures of the disaster.
“I was at the scene where the fire had burnt down a number of stores; and actually I was reporting the situation live. I had it posted on facebook and other platforms and I was communicating to other media houses on the situation. So, we saw that the first two fire tenders had ran out of water and had to leave the scene to go get water. Citizens tried to help by getting buckets [of water] and sachet water to go the scene.
As a journalist, I just stood by to video the incident and report when we saw the police coming to the scene and they started hitting people and telling them to go back and sacking them. So I saw that there was this police officer hitting people go back, go back so I was just looking at him where he was coming from so I went backward myself to be able to take good footage and report so he hit people; go back, go back. So when he goes, they go back, when he goes, they go back.
So I was like officer, maybe if you speak English to them or their native language, maybe they would understand you because it’s like they don’t understand the Twi you are speaking.
Then he turned and looked at me and said: “Are you the one to show me policing? Are you the one to show me my job? You self what are you doing here? Go back. And he hit me in the chest so I went back.” He stopped me from filming and I said sir, me I’m a journalist that is why I’m standing here filming. “You are a journalist and so what? I said go back.”
He hit me the second time and I said sir, what have I done? Or you just want to beat me because the way you are hitting me, it’s hurting me. Then his colleagues from behind said, if he jokes beat him. He’s stand there and talking. Then he came to me and said if you are a journalist and so what?
From afar, some of his colleagues just started running to the scene and before I realized, someone slapped me from behind and they hooked me up. Then his commander came and told him that they were even wasting time. They should handcuff me and lock me up in the car. So as they pulled me through the crowd and hit me from back and trying to go through the principal streets, then a citizen who saw them pulling me said he’s a journalist, he’s innocent, what has he done to you? Then the commander upon seeing that the crowd and the mob were surrounding the police vehicle preventing them from arresting me, then said do you know him? And they said yes, he’s a journalist, he was doing nothing it was your people who were causing him. Then he said leave him to go away with his trouble.” Chris, as he is affectionately, recounted his ordeal to TopNews Ghana.
Unit commander in charge of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), ASP Van Koffie Eric, who admitted instructing his officers to manhandle the journalist and challenged him to report him to his superiors.
In the company of Edward Adeti, Upper East Regional Correspondent of Starr FM, Mr. Asima made a formal complaint to the Bolgatanga Municipal Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Samuel Punobyin.
Mr. Punobyin however explained he did not detail any team to a fire scene. He immediately detailed two of his men to go with the complainant to identify those who assaulted him.
When they got back to the scene with the officers, a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit commander, ASP Van Koffie Eric, accepted responsibility of ordering his men to brutalise the broadcaster and further challenged the two officers detailed by the municipal police commander to do whatever they wanted to do.
Though fire fighters from the Ghana National Fire Service could not immediately establish the cause of the outbreak, eyewitnesses said there was an explosion from the kitchen of the canteen at a time a female worker there was cooking.
Most eyewitnesses claimed it took over 30 minutes before personnel from the GNFS responded several distress calls, the reason nothing could be salvaged from any the affected businesses.