A Ghanaian undercover journalist who helped expose corruption in African football has been shot dead in the capital, triggering widespread outrage and demands for authorities to bring his killers to justice.
Ahmed Husein, 34, was gunned down as he returned to his home in the Madina area of Accra on Wednesday night.
The reporter was part of a team led by award-winning journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas, whose probe last year led to the resignation of the head of the Ghana Football Association and the banning of dozens of football referees and officials.
Last year Husein filed a complaint with police after a prominent lawmaker from President Nana Akufo-Addo’s ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) threatened him, once calling on television for supporters to beat Hussein while showing the reporter’s photograph.
Police said Husein was shot in the chest and neck. Anas and his Tiger Eye production company said the gunmen fired at close range from a motorbike and he died instantly.
Media organisations and journalists in Ghana on Thursday called for more protection and demanded the government fully investigate.
“We… are terribly devastated by the dastardly act but remain unshaken in our resolve to pursue nation-wreckers and make corruption a high-risk activity,” said Anas.
President Nana Akufo-Addo sent his condolences to Husein’s family and condemned the killing.
“I expect the police to bring to book, as soon as possible, the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” he said in a statement.
Information minister Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah told reporters violence against journalists would not be tolerated but the government is likely to come under pressure over the killing.
The murder of a journalist is unusual in Ghana, which ranked 23rd out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index — up three places on the previous year.
But the revelations about corruption in football rocked Ghana, a country where football is the national sport and which prides itself on being a stable democracy in an often turbulent region.
The president of the Ghana Journalists Association, Affail Monney, said Husein’s killers “must be made to face the full rigours of law”.
He also called on Akufo-Addo to get to the bottom of the killing, and urged parliament to “take necessary actions” to improve media and public safety.
“This killing, in addition to rampant assault against journalists in recent times, sends a worrying signal that the media are under serious attack,” he told a news conference.
– Previous threats –
International media watchdog the Committee for the Protection of Journalists called for an immediate investigation and for the authorities “to ensure that threats against the press are taken seriously”.
Husein had made the complaint to police after NPP party member Kennedy Agyapong showed his photograph on a private television channel and promised payment for supporters who took attacked him.
“That boy that’s very dangerous, he lives here in Madina. If he comes here, beat him,” Agyapong said, pointing to a picture of Husein’s face.
In the undercover investigation into football corruption, Agyapong’s name was also mentioned by implicated sporting officials.
Husein’s lawyer, Kissi Agyabeng, said the member of parliament had questions to answer.
Agyapong himself rejected claims that he “engineered the killing” of Husein, telling local radio station Neat FM: “He has never offended me.
“So, they should go and investigate those he has offended not me. He and his boss (Anas) have offended so many people in this country.
“The evil they have been doing will follow them.”
– Media freedom –
RSF has previously condemned threats against Anas after he revealed “threatening calls, intimidatory messages and suspicious vehicles near his home”.
The reporter, whose other exposes have lifted the lid on graft in the judicial system, is distinctive for wearing hats and face-coverings to conceal his identity.
World governing body FIFA last October banned former Ghana FA boss Kwesi Nyantakyi for life and fined him nearly $500,000 (439,000 euros) after he was seen on camera accepting bribes.
Nyantakyi was accused of requesting $11 million to secure government contracts.
Eight referees and assistant referees were banned for life while 53 officials were subject to 10-year bans. Fourteen officials were exonerated.