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Journalists Caused Visa Scandal

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 …They Also Abused Media Accreditation For Commonwealth Games -Nunoo Mensah

There was massive abuse of the media accreditation by individual press houses during the 2018 Commonwealth Games leading to the arrest and detention of some ‘fake journalists’ in the infamous Australia Visa Scandal, according to a report authored by the President of the Ghana Olympic Committee Ben Nunoo Mensah.

Marked as ‘Exhibit 2’ in the report by the GOC’s Disciplinary sub-committee into the visa fraud scandal, the GOC President admitted there were unauthorized entries in the GOC’s accreditation system, abuse of the media accreditation and other individuals who tried to enter Australia by false pretenses.

Mr. Mensah was livid that press houses had submitted ineligible names into for the media accreditation saying “On the second issue of the abuse of the media accreditation system done by individual press houses which has led to the arrest and detention of some fake journalists, we think the various Accreditation Liaison Officers (ALO) of the various media houses must be questioned on how and why they submitted those names to GOLDOC for accreditation as journalists. If it has become a criminal issue, then we think the CID must take it up.”

The visa fraud scandal first broke on 20th March, 2018, when 5 alleged ‘fake beach volley ball players’ were detained for attempting to enter Australia by false pretenses but the issue became more serious about two weeks later when journalists begun arriving for the Games.

“On or about the 4th of April, I was informed by the CDM that some Ghanaian journalists and some people who are outside his official list are being detained by Australian Immigration. My little investigation revealed that there has been a massive abuse of the Media Houses Direct Accreditation System by the individual media houses who dealt directly with the organisers (GOLDOC). I must emphasize that Media House Accreditation are not done through the GOC/CGA but directly by the individual media houses with the organisers (GOLDOC),” Mr. Mensah claimed while attempting to exonerate the GOC from the scandal.

 But the GOC capo also admitted his outfit’s involvement in the media accreditation process by stating they gave introduction letters to some media houses to apply for visas outside the media accreditation process.

“On the third issue of individuals who were presented to the Australian High Commission in Accra, the GOC gave introductory letters to some Media Houses like Graphic-Chris Nunoo, Joy FM-Benedict Owusu, Peace FM-Romeo Oduro and a few others as part of their Visa processing requirement by the Australian High Commission in Accra, but we are informed that none of these persons got a visa from the Australian High Commission and did not travel to Australia.”

However, on 23rd April, 2018, the GOC’s Press Attaché, Mr. Ken Adade briefed the GOC’s board on the media accreditation process, noting the role the GOC had played “approving and validating” the individual houses for the Games.

He disclosed that media registration was either individually or through an accreditation liaison officers who entered the names of journalists in the media house, adding that the final list was sent to the GOC and the accreditation cards were distributed through the GOC as well.

More importantly, Ken gave a key fact that media personnel who had missed the deadline for accreditation were also allowed to apply online to be registered and some of those people were given introduction letters by the GOC to apply for visas through the Australian High Commission in Accra. Thus confirming the earlier assertion by the GOC boss.

 Meanwhile, the Minutes of the GOC’s Board meeting shows that the board, after further deliberations, agreed that it was not in the interest of the GOC to deny knowledge of the media accreditation since the GOC’s “media personnel were involved and somehow validated the process.

Messrs Herbert Mensah, Mawuko Afadzinu and Charles Osei Asibey were mandated to put together a press release after the meeting to put across the position of the GOC on all the matters regarding the Commonwealth Games.”

But in the subsequent GOC press release, the Olympic governing body denied knowledge of the role it had played in the validation process of the media houses.

Indeed, several officers and members of the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) were alleged to have added “ineligible” persons in their lists for the Games in 2018.

“SWAG issued introductory letters to ineligible persons to apply for visas,” according to Bernard Fetrie, a former Ghanaian weightlifter based in Australia claimed in a message to the GOC President during the Games.

Under pressure from the public, the GOC released 70 names of journalists accredited for the Commonwealth Games Gold Coast 2018 in a press release on 17th April, 2018, which named 19 individual media houses and 70 individuals. But the number released was well below the about ‘90’ the GOC Press Attaché, Ken Adade, had mentioned in a GOC YouTube post on 12th March, 2018. Conspicuously missing from the GOC list was that of the Finder newspaper whose sports editor interestingly is also Ken Adade.

In the immediate aftermath of that release, several media houses denied knowledge of some of the individuals mentioned as its employees in the list. Among some of the unknown names were Ebenezer Frimpong of Class FM, and Raji Shuaeeb of Ghanaian Times while in some cases the entire lists of some media houses like: Rainbow FM and Ghana.gov.gh was rejected by known employees of the media house. SportsNetGhana, a website owned by the Secretary General of the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG), William Ezah, registered four individuals for the Games but William had already been registered as the Communications Manager of the National Paralympic Committee on the GOC’s official list.

Interestingly, SWAG’s own list for the Games was questioned by some of its own members. Sports24Ghana.com registered the highest number of accreditations of seven (7) while Kasapa FM and Top FM had the joint lowest number of accreditations- a representative each.

Many journalists also wondered why known brands like Daily Graphic, Joy FM, and Peace FM were not officially accredited but rather given introduction letters to apply for visas while ‘mushroom’ websites like Sportsarenaghana.com, sustainabilityactive.com and sportspreviewgh.com were accredited.

Journalists with close links to the GOC and the SWAG such as Ken Adade, William Ezah-SWAG Secretary General and Charles Osei Asibey –SWAG Executive Member-came under increasing scrutiny as rumours swelled they had been interrogated by the CID in connection with the fraud. But the State’s lack of interest in the case following the re-instatement of the then Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports Pius Enam Hadzide all but ended the investigations.

Media reports, while the Games were going on in Gold Coast 2018, flagged up that more than 60 Ghanaians had either been stranded, detained or deported from Australia by immigration authorities of Australia and transit countries like Singapore on suspicions of visa fraud.

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