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Africa Investigates

'My kind of journalism'

A Ghanaian journalist explains his resolve to name, shame and jail gold scammers, whatever the cost to his safety.

Last updated: 10 Nov 2011 09:35
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While good men till the soil day and night for the development of their nation state, some evil men spend their time engaged in activities that are aimed at retrogressing the hard-won fortunes of the state. Working to separate the evil from the good is my kind of journalism.

There are, however, times when the price tag attached to this form of journalism is steep. And, when those evil men use their ill-gotten wealth to create the impression that they are heroes within their society, this kind of work becomes even murkier and more dangerous.

But, no matter how deadly it may be, the implied covenant between journalism and society - the commitment to trust and loyalty - must remain. Invariably, the journalist is expected to serve the public good, even when that means sacrificing one's own comfort.

The chase is on

Over the years, Ghana, which was formerly known as the Gold Coast, has been a major producer of gold. Decades ago, our forefathers used to pick nuggets of gold from the bare floors of some of the country's prime gold mining sites.

But while consecutive Ghanaian governments have gone cup in hand to solicit investment from those whose activities might help reduce the endemic poverty in some Ghanaian communities, some evil men have taken it upon themselves to shatter this drive by scamming innocent victims whose only crime has been to show an interest in doing business with mother Ghana. These people are lured by the scammer, deceived and robbed of their money in exchange for fake gold. I have seen some of their victims be driven to suicide and others to insanity, while many must simply watch their lives and those of their dependents be shattered forever.

Witnessing the victims of these scams as part of my daily work makes my heart heavy and incites my unflinching commitment to name, shame and - critically - jail the criminals of this underworld.

The very first time I broke into the gold scamming syndicate I was tempted with a bribe of $50,000. When I refused this I was red carded with death threats. But this did not stop me, because I knew that the collateral effects of the activities of these greedy scammers led to the deaths of the poor villagers who could have benefitted from the jobs that would have been created by the foreign investor who had just been scammed by these criminals.

I have since moved on to expose much bigger gold scams - some to the tune of $2mn or $7mn - by going undercover and providing hard evidence for the prosecution of these bad guys in a court of law. The chase has been on.

Naming, shaming and jailing

Over the past decade, my work as an undercover journalist has served me well in studying the inner workings of this underworld. I have come close to murders, death threats and witnessed the rage of criminals whose resistance in pulling the trigger has saved my life. It is often within the audible range of such life-threatening circumstances that the call to public good comes under careful examination.

Given my position as a journalist, I consider it a duty to stand up for the rights of society at all times. Coming into contact with these criminals is a consequence of this duty. In spite of the inherent dangers, I always try to respond to society's mandate by gathering hard evidence which ultimately helps in naming, shaming and jailing these criminals.

While many would consider naming as the logical end of the journalist's task, I see things differently. My style of journalism is a tribute to my society - the Ghanaian environment and the African context at large.

In Africa's march towards freedom from acrimony at the expense of others, I see the need to complement the efforts of other state institutions. From the local police department to the higher courts, my role has become essential in helping some of these institutions take action against such criminals.

Unlike in other circumstances where the journalist can go to bed after the news breaks, in my society there are forces that can turn months of toil to nothing if the journalist leaves their story at the reporting stage. Forces such as bureaucratic procedures, cronyism, congested legal case files usually interfere with justice and fairness.

As such, the real work of the journalist in my society begins on the morning after the story has broken. In the face of death threats and visible danger, one is expected to run the gauntlet by diligently calling the attention of the police and other lawmakers to the matter so as to ensure that the law takes its course.

Fighting the criminal underworld at the risk of my life, freedom and wellbeing is a mission aimed at redeeming the reputation of my nation, Ghana, and the continent of Africa. It is a commitment to leading the queue in the hope that others might follow. When this mission comes to the fore, all other threats only strengthen my resolve to go further and higher.

My efforts may not rid the entire continent of crime and corruption. However, lighting it up with the efforts of Kweku Baako Jnr, Sorious Samura, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, Norbert Zongo and other notable African journalists, gives me hope that a brighter light can be shone on the darker parts of my continent. In this way, Africa can join the rest of the world in charting a better course for humanity.

There are times when the most extreme of diseases call for extreme remedies, where the need to heal calls for some pain. I, without any regrets, have chosen to belong to the extreme remedy and I shall fight the extreme diseases anywhere, anytime.


Watch more  Africa Investigates  for reports by undercover African journalists who face intimidation, beatings and death threats.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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