‘And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.’ – JOHN 1: 5 [NET]
Anas Aremeyaw Anas. An investigative journalist who cultivates his shining work in the depths of Ghanaian darkness. He works to the mantra ‘Name, Shame and Jail’ – a mission statement cultivated by his horror at corruption running rife in Ghana’s military and police. Brought up in a military barracks, and an owner of degrees in Law and Journalism, his metier focuses on human rights and anti-corruption – gathering hard evidence of crime and corruption in order to put perpetrators behind bars.
Amidst the ‘Who You Know’ culture which creeps along the corridors of Ghanaian power, Anas is a marked man. Enter, the disguises. His real identity is classified. He is seen publically wearing masks made of African beads which cascade down from various caps and hats, obscuring his features from view. Even when giving a TED talk in 2013, the beads remained, a candy-coloured shield to keep his identity intact while he shared his motives with the world. From his youth, Anas was known to enjoy theatrics, with a former President of the National Association of Pan-African Clubs recalling how Anas was once given a role in a casual play – “if you wanted him to play the role…he would go out and look for costumes, and then come in full regalia, ready to play the part”.
The ‘Name, Shame and Jail’ mantra has powered an impressive portfolio of investigative work. He published the results of two investigations in 2006 – one involving a cookie factory which was using maggot-infested flour, and another exposing corruption inside the Passport Agency, which earned him the Journalist of the Year Award via the Ghana Journalists Association. He has gone undercover in Ghana’s biggest state run orphanage, exposing corruption and child abuse. He has exposed fraud and corruption at the Tema Harbour. The dumsor fans among you may be interested to note that Anas in 2012 premiered a three-phase investigation into the power distribution sector in Ghana, exposing corruption carried out by employees of ECG. He has also investigated the effects of illegal gold mining in Ghana, and exploitation carried out by an ‘Abortion Lord’ who slept with female clients who came to him seeking abortions, as well as exposing child sacrifices being carried out in the Northern region, calling for the prosecution of fetish priests who were participating in such barbaric activity.
Disguises are required to successfully infiltrate the secret circles which are the focus of his investigations. There is no space for failure. Anas notes, “The threats are not imagined. They are real…When you are dealing with bad guys in the society and you take a swipe at them and you miss, you embolden them. I have no time for that. If I pick a story that I want to do, I do it well.” He is a possessor of many items of disguise – a marvellous array of wigs, masks, and surveillance equipment have helped him in many missions. He has masqueraded as an albino body parts trafficker, and even posed as a rock to film cocoa smugglers! One of his most notorious missions involved him gaining admission into Ghana’s largest psychiatric hospital under the guise of a severely mentally-ill patient. He secretly filmed, amongst other things, workers selling hard drugs to patients, patients scrounging for food out of bins, and a dead patient who had been lying in a ditch unattended for days being carted away in a van used to transport hospital food. This helped him bring an exposé of Ghana’s mental health service abuses of patient’s human rights to the masses, triggering further scrutiny by Human Rights Watch and the creation of a Mental Health Act in 2012.
When it comes to Anas Aremeyaw Anas, fact is stranger than fiction. But behind the various disguises stands tall a strong, powerful body of investigative journalism which has
brought down walls and made a tangible and very serious difference in Ghanaian society. His whistleblowing reaps results. And you won’t find a better example of this than his most recent and arguably most significant mission to date.
In September 2015, he premiered a new undercover film titled ‘Ghana In The Eyes of God’, which focused on corruption within the Ghanaian Judiciary sector and showed 34 judges and magistrates caught on hidden camera receiving money and animals in exchange for the freedom of various criminals. The affected judges have been suspended from service and the cases have gone to Ghana’s highest courts, with Chief Justice Georgina Wood ordering further investigation based on the findings of Anas’s work.
He has been noted for his portfolio of investigation, receiving a ‘Heroes Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery’ award by the US State Department in 2008 for his contribution to investigating human trafficking, as well as a CNN/Multichoice African Journalist award in 2009, and being named the best in Anti-Corruption reporting by the FAIR Investigative Journalism Awards in 2010. He has also received an Africa Achievers Award in Kenya in 2013, and an Engaged Journalism Award by the May Chidiac Foundation in 2014. President Barack Obama highlighted Anas’ virtues in a speech during his 2009 visit to Ghana: “An independent press. A vibrant private sector. A civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy. We see that spirit in courageous journalists like Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who risked his life to report the truth.” He was polled as the ‘5th Most Influential Ghanaian’ in 2011 by ETV and named one of the ‘Most Influential Africans of the Year’ by the New African Magazine in December 2014.
Despite the accolades, the face remains hidden, the identity remains secret. Mr Anas is a beautiful oxymoron who terrifies the underbelly of Ghana. He needs to keep his mask on in order to cause the masks of others to fall so we can see people for who they really are. He shuns the fame and the spotlight, and remains in the shadows. For it is in the darkness of Ghanaian society that Anas Aremeyaw Anas works best, and will continue to work – and bring our worst to light, warts and all.
Follow him on Twitter @anasglobal and view his 2013 TED Talk ‘How I Named, Shamed & Jailed’ at http://www.ted.com/talks/anas_aremeyaw_anas_how_i_named_shamed_and_jailed
By Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)