Anas: Ghana’s Anonymous Watchdog

While on the trotro between Mole and Boabeng-Fiema, I spotted a curious sign along the side of the road, exhorting people to “Fight Anas” and “Stop Tiger Eye”. Curious, I loaded up Google, and spent the rest of the ride reading about this amazing citizen journalist, who has been battling corruption in Ghana for years … making more than a few enemies doing so. Fight Anas? More like: do everything possible to support him!

Anas Ghana Watchdaog
Credit: Oslo Freedom Forum, Photographer: Reka Nyari, Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Anas Aremeyaw Anas is an award-winning journalist who has dedicated himself to exposing the rampant corruption and malfeasance which has plagued his country for so long. Using hidden cameras, a team of dedicated investigators, and an impenetrable anonymity, Anas has “named and shamed” some of Ghana’s most powerful people. The only time he’s ever shown his face was in an interview with the BBC — and it was later revealed that he had been wearing prosthetics even for this unveiling.

That level of caution might seem paranoid, but it’s probably warranted. You know why you suddenly never hear about Ghana’s football team, which had for long been among the powerhouses of the continent? That’s because of Anas. His 2018 exposé titled 12th Man revealed the shocking level of graft that had extended into all levels of the organization. He even managed to capture the president of the country’s association accepting a bribe on tape. Referees were implicated, as were foreign coaches. The entire Ghana Football Association was disbanded, and all matches in the country were cancelled.

In 2015, he and his Tiger Eye team of investigators released videos of over 100 members of Ghana’s judiciary accepting bribes. His documentary, Ghana in the Eyes of God, made an explosive impact on the country when it debuted, and led directly to arrest or removal of dozens of extremely high-ranking officials. He’s also gone after less high-profile targets, including local herbalists who sell poison to the parents of unwanted children.

Although Anas has been been recognized and heralded by rights and journalism organizations around the world (including by my alma mater of Ohio University, who awarded him the “African Hero” award in 2016), he faces stark danger at home. The sign along the road was proof enough of this: whoever posts a sign saying “Stop Anas”, is someone who has secrets to hide. For this reason, Anas hides his face; but ever the showman, does so with some fabulously artistic masks.

Frequently during our chats with regular people in Ghana, the conversation turned toward corruption. It’s a systemic problem of which everyone is aware, and we heard complaints almost daily. Most feel as though it’s something about which they have no control over — and they’re probably right; if the options are “pay the bribe” or “be refused a driver’s license”, 95% of people are going to pony up. But that’s exactly why it’s so important that fearless journalists like Anas are out there. Without someone willing to part the blinds, the sunlight will never come in.

If you want to check out his work, and we suggest you do, here are some links:
Number 12 – Article & Video
Ghana in the Eyes of God – Report on Al-Jazeera
How I Named, Shamed and Jailed – a TED talk from Anas

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