Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Who is Anas Aremeyaw Anas

President Barack Obama praised Aremeyaw Anas, a Ghanaian journalist with a paper called the New Crusading Guide, who worked undercover for eight months, risking his life, to expose a child trafficking ring. The evidence he amassed led to the prosecution of traffickers accused of sending Ghanaian girls to Europe for prostitution.

On his first presidential trip to sub-Saharan Africa, President Obama boosted the Ghanaian investigative reporter profile. He went undercover to break stories about human trafficking, Obama cited the "courageous journalist" as an example of what democracies that respect a free press can produce.

Anas Aremeyaw Anas was named among this year’s CNN/Multichoice African Journalists of the Year Awards finalists for 2009. Anas was the only Ghanaian among 25 finalists from 12 countries.

Ghanaian Went Undercover to Expose Sex Trafficking from EbonyJet.com in association with the Africa Channel, with writer Toby Thompkins and the Africa Channel’s Bob Reid reporting from Ghana.

Anas Aremeyaw Anas, a reporter with an independent Ghanaian newspaper, had been one of 17 "Heroes Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery" named in the State Department's 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report.

The U.S. government monitors human trafficking in 175 countries, including the United States, maintaining that it is a U.S. priority to end the "modern-day slavery" in which foreign workers are "held not just by brute force, but through exorbitant recruiting fees that can result in debt bondage," as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

Anas was responsible for breaking two major trafficking rings in Accra, Ghana, within a year, according to a report last year on america.gov, produced by the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs.

One of his pieces was headlined "INSIDE THE CHINESE SEX MAFIA . . . How Trafficked Chinese Girls Are Sexually Exploited And Beaten In Ghana, Nigeria And Togo. They Are Sold for 6,000 dollars Each."

"He worked undercover for eight months, exposing the ring's methods of transportation and the identities of immigration officials who were accepting bribes in return for overlooking fake visas and passports," the america.gov story said.

"Anas made recordings of his interactions, which allowed him to collect evidence that could be used by the police to prosecute the traffickers who were sending girls to Europe for prostitution. As a result of his investigation, and his collaboration with law enforcement agencies, nongovernmental organizations and other journalists, 17 Nigerian trafficking victims were rescued.

"Following this success, Anas posed as a janitor in a brothel where he collected evidence of a second ring trafficking children for prostitution. His efforts guided police in planning and executing a raid to rescue minors prostituted in the brothel. His exemplary courage and innovation were instrumental in disrupting two rings that profited from human trafficking."

In his speech to the Ghanaian Parliament, Obama said:

"Time and again, Ghanaians have chosen constitutional rule over autocracy, and shown a democratic spirit that allows the energy of your people to break through.

We see that in leaders who accept defeat graciously, and victors who resist calls to wield power against the opposition. We see that spirit in courageous journalists like Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who risked his life to report the truth.

We see it in police like Patience Quaye, who helped prosecute the first human trafficker in Ghana. We see it in the young people who are speaking up against patronage and participating in the political process."

He said at another point, "No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery."

"This is too sweet to hear from the world’s most powerful man," Anas told Africa News on Sunday. "I never knew my investigative pieces are receiving his attention.

What an encouragement! He makes me proud but humbled too at the same time to continue serving mankind," Anas said.

Africa News said Anas, who is nicknamed "FBI," added: 'I have received about 14 international awards and still counting but listening to Obama mentioning my name in public to millions of people across the world is more than an award. I am so touched. I hope it would also serve as an encouragement to my other colleague journalists to continue with the good job they are doing.”

Anas was named the Ghanaian Journalists Association's 2006 Journalist of the Year. He investigated the Euro Foods Company, disguised as a cleaner whose duty was to help mix maggot-infested flour for baking biscuits for sale to the public.

His story on sex trafficking was a finalist for an award from Investigative Reporters and Editors in the United States.

This piece is dedicated to Anas Aremeyaw Anas and my former colleagues at the defunct Crusading Guide now New Crusading Guide especially the Editor Samuel Frimpong whose shouts have made me who I am today.

Open Letter to Ministers of Finance & Communications - Re: Registration of Mobile Phone Subscribers and Monitoring of Telecommunications

14th December 2009

The Honorable Minister
Ministry of Finance & Economic Planning


The Honorable Minister
Ministry of Communications

Dear Sirs,

Re: Registration of Mobile Phone Subscribers and Monitoring of Telecommunications

I write to express concern and to pose questions on two matters, namely (i) the demand by ‘National Security’ that mobile phone operators (“Telecom Operators”) must ‘register’ the details of all subscribers, and (ii) portions of the 2010 Budget Statement about plans by the Government to “acquire telecommunications monitoring equipment.” My letter is addressed to you, because primarily, the concerns fall squarely within the purview of your respective ministries. But I make this an ‘open letter’ as the subject is one that the people of Ghana need to be aware of and so that we can all arrive at informed conclusions on the matter.

Before asking the question, I would crave your indulgence to refer to Article 18(2) of the Constitution, which guarantees the citizens’ right to privacy of “correspondence” and “communication” and which provides that this right can only be interfered with “in accordance with law” passed for specified purposes. The Article states expressly as follows:

“No person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of his home, property, correspondence or communication except in accordance with law as may be necessary in a free and democratic society for public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the protection of health or morals, for the prevention of disorder or crime or for the protection of the rights or freedoms of others.”

I note that ‘National Security’ has been pushing, behind the scenes for a long time and recently in public, for the mandatory registration of the details of all mobile phone subscribers in Ghana. I am aware that they now want to set a deadline before 25th December 2009 for the mandatory registration of all new customers. This is to be followed (at a date that has not been specified yet) by the disconnection of any existing, unregistered customers.

I note further that paragraph 621 of the Budget Statement announced a “special audit initiative to cover the telephony sector.” Paragraph 628 announced the establishment of a special Communications Service Tax (“CST” or “Talk Tax”) Unit and the commencement of “procurement process to acquire telecommunications monitoring equipment and software” ostensibly for the CST Unit to track payments. Paragraph 672 mentioned an increase in “monitoring activities” to “enhance compliance” with the CST. Finally, paragraph 864 mentioned, again, the need for “increased monitoring” of the CST to ensure compliance.

Sirs, these would appear innocuous upon first reading. However, read together, the proposed registration and proposed monitoring throw up many questions that beg for answers. These questions are:

1. Is there any suggestion or evidence that Telecom Operators have been cheating on the “Talk Tax”, which will then require the implementation of the monitoring of communications to “enhance compliance”?
2. What are the legal bases for the demands by ‘National Security’ for ‘registration’, and therefore unrestricted access to citizens’ details, from Telecom Operators?
3. Is it the case:
a. That at present, the Police, ‘National Security’ and the Military have easy access to individual mobile phone details by simply writing letters to Telecom Operators, without any court orders;
b. That telecom traffic travels in two types of paths, the ‘voice path’ being that in which the actual conversation moves from one network to another, and the ‘signaling path’ being the means by which one network can communicate with the other about a pending call; and that text messages pass through the signaling path, which is the path that the government wants to monitor;
c. That the Government wants to compel Telecom Operators to send all their signaling through ‘black boxes’ owned by the Government, which would monitor all call traffic (i.e. the originating and destination numbers, the time and length of call) and report the data back to the Government in real time;
d. That if or when implemented, the Government will know who we are, who we call, and how often we call, at the time we are calling;
e. That although the Government may not be able to decipher the actual words of voice calls, it will be able to read every single SMS coming into and leaving networks, and know every website that a person visits on his/her phone or mobile internet device;
f. That however, by simply maneuvering the signaling channel messages, the Government will be able to interrupt, process, intercept, block and/or divert calls, so that the Government can then eavesdrop and know every single detail of happenings on the intercepted calls, without our knowledge and/or the involvement of any competent judicial authority in Ghana;
g. That the current proposed implementation will allow the Government, not only to know who is phoning whom, but also (i) from where to where (with accurate location placement), and (ii) whether a person is roaming and in which country and on which network; and
h. That by this means, it is possible to (i) change signaling so that although a specific call is made, all traces of it can be removed or disguised so that no one can trace its origin or destination, and (ii) create an SMS or call that never existed?

Sirs, as I stated above, this letter is just to ask the questions and to elicit responses, if any. If or when you respond to the above, we will continue with this discussion.

Yours in the service of God and Ghana,

Kojo Anan
(kojoanan.blogspot.com, www.i-can-ghana.com)

cc. The Honorable Minister
Ministry of Information

The Parliamentary Majority Leader
Parliament House

The Parliamentary Minority Leader
Parliament House

The Director-General
National Communications Authority