Anas Aremeyaw Anas – The Faceless Activist
“I’m sorry I cannot show you my face. Because if I do, the bad guys will come at me.”
– Anas Aremeyaw Anas, Investigative Journalist
It is well known that a thriving, independent and strong 4th estate is needed for any democracy to thrive. There is one man who takes this responsibility seriously and has taken great steps to improve the role of journalism in bolstering African economies. This man is an investigative journalist called Anas Aremeyaw Anas. While most people have read his pieces and watched his videos uncovering the different ills in society from abuse to corruption, very few have seen his face – a quirk that is necessary to enable him to do his work effectively and to protect him from the numerous people who want him dead.
His journey started 14 years ago when as a journalist he noticed how police officers were taking bribes from hawkers. Everyone knew that this was taking place yet there was no evidence which was needed to apprehend the police officers. He decided to go undercover and acted as a hawker and with the use of hidden video cameras was able to film the officers in the process of taking bribes and with that was able to get a prosecution.
This was the beginning of the work in investigative journalism which in his own words is based on three principles: “Naming Shaming and Jailing”. He is a graduate of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, leads the investigative unit of the Ghanaian New Crusading Guide Newspaper, and has started numerous companies including Name and Shame Ghana, a site that showcases crowd funded videos of corruption.
Since going undercover as a hawker, Anas has gone undercover to unearth many more scandals. Some of his works include:
The Accra Psychiatric hospital: Accra’s leading psychiatric treatment center where the mentally ill patients were ritually abused. It took 7 months of high level undercover work here he posed as a baker and a taxi driver and then finally as a mental patient under the alias of “Don Dada” at the facility for three weeks – where he took drugs that made him impotent for a week. In there he uncovered how the staff routinely stole and sold food meant for the patients, and sold drugs to them. Where he captured nurses beating patients who lay on the ground helpless, where an epileptic patient was beaten while they were having a seizure. He also displayed side effects of some of the potent drugs that are given to the patients which included impotence, neck turning, numb tongues, etc.
Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG): After eight months undercover, he was able to uncover the theft going theft at the Electricity Company of Ghana where ECG staff colluded with the heads of households and businesses to tamper with the electricity meters in order to reduce the fees, and in return for bribes.
He uncovered how ECG did not sign a maintenance contract with the company responsible for providing the meters. He showed how companies continued to owe the ECG with impunity. He also listed the names of companies that owed huge sums of money to the ECG including the Office of the President, State House (Parliament), Vodafone, and The Movenpick hotel among others, who owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the ECG.
Spirit Child: On disabled babies and how parents paid medicine men to give them concoctions to kill them. He created a prosthetic disabled baby and used that to lure the “medicine men” who he filmed in the act of trying to give the poisonous concoction to the fake baby, and called the police to catch them in the act.
Nsawam Prison in Ghana: He went undercover in one of Ghana’s famous prisons – where he showed images of a pile of dead bodies in the prisons, the poor toilet facilities, bad food and general living conditions of the prisons.
What makes Anas’ journalism different is that it is evidenced-based.
“My journalism is about hard core evidence. When I say you have stolen, I show you the evidence”
Another factor that makes his journalism different is that he uses his journalism solely to benefit society and his work has led to numerous arrests.
“What is the essence of journalism if it doesn’t benefit society?”
Anas has won numerous awards for his work including the best journalist of the year in Ghana, the Every Human Rights Award, and the 2007 Multi Choice African Journalist Award among others. It has also won him praise from President Obama. According to Obama, “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”
Anas is impressive not only because of his great investigative work but also because of the sacrifices he has had to make to uncover the truth. His undercover work comes with many hazards and means that he often has to risk his life. In addition, Anas is impressive because he works tirelessly with the knowledge that as his face is hidden, he will not get fame and glory for his work, factors which make him a great African leader.