It started simply.
Reporter Fred Kofi Asamoah, JHR colleague Kevin Hill and I headed out to shoot some video for a story. Asamoah needed some images of children working for his feature on child labour.
We were barely out the front door when Asamoah struck up a conversation with a young girl of about 5. On her head she balanced several kilos of sachet water -- plastic bags of drinking water. She looked tired and her dress was dirty.
We decided to shoot some footage of the girl walking down the SKYY driveway towards the main Takoradi-Accra highway.
After a short period of time we were walking along side the heavily travelled highway. Massive transports rumbled by, only inches from us and the tired little girl with the heavy load on her head.
Two men in a blue BMW drove slowly past, glaring at us. We weren't quite sure what they wanted and they didn't say anything.
We continued to shoot pictures of the little girl. A few minutes later, the BMW was back. It pulled up behind us and stopped.
The two men, one of whom is a pastor (!), hopped out started berating us.
According to them we were:
- coming to Ghana to show the bad side of the country to the world
- lying about what Ghana is really like
- working for foreign news agencies and making money off poor children
- shooting the girl without permission and her knowledge
- assholes (I've never been called an asshole by a pastor before!)
We explained our mission to encourage human rights reporting in Ghana. We told them that we worked for SKYY and the story was for a local audience. We also explained that the girl knew what we were doing because we'd asked her if we could shoot her. And, most importantly, we told them we were concerned that a young child was walking along the busiest highway in the metropolis without any supervision.
The yelling continued and I wondered why a supposed man of God was more concerned with the image of Ghana than the safety of a wee girl. I also wondered if his BMW was financed by his church's collection plate.
Things got even more bizarre when the pastor and his sidekick tried to take force the girl into their car. She freaked and started crying and we realized it was time to back off. These guys were complete nut bars. She escaped their greasy clutches and began walking away.
The men turned their attention back to us with more accusations of how we were single handedly destroying the image of Ghana.
We shut them down saying that if they had concerns they could go back to SKYY and talk with the owner, news director or managing editor. Kevin even asked one if he could interview him! Priceless! They drove off in a huff.
I gave Asamoah 20,000 cedis to give to the girl for all the silliness she had to endure and hoped that she wasn't too traumatized by the attempted "rescue."
Asamoah, Kevin and I headed back to the newsroom, not really believing that we'd just experienced what we had just experienced.
Back at work we mentioned what had happened and everyone seemed to agree that the pastor and his pal were in the wrong -- especially when they tried to stop us from reporting on a human rights story.
Later we discovered that the pastor had called the station to complain. The tape we shot was requested and viewed by the top. And... they sided with the pastor! We had to turn the tape over so that we wouldn't use pictures of the girl! And it was Kevin's tape shot on Kevin's camera. Unbelievable!
The story will still go, but we'll have to shoot pictures of another girl walking down the same busy road. Needless to say, I disagree with the decision. But I have to accept it. I don't own the station.
It seems sad that when it comes to doing what we are here to do, we still find a lack of support.
But that is another story....