Thugs affiliated with the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) stormed the studios of UTV on Saturday, October 7, 2023, abruptly halting the live broadcast of United Showbiz, an entertainment programme which sometimes has a political slant.
The Ghana Police Service late Saturday night announced the arrest of some 16 individuals, who invaded the studios of Accra-based United Television (UTV) leading to a break in transmission. The show later resumed its broadcast.
According to the police, the arrests were made following a complaint lodged by the Despite Media Group, the owners of UTV, and the Ministry of Information regarding an apparent invasion of the studio premises by a group of individuals.
In a statement shared via social media, the police said, “Following a complaint from the Despite Media Group and the Ministry of Information that certain people had invaded the studios of U-TV this evening, the Police proceeded to the scene and arrested sixteen (16) persons.”
The statement went on to confirm that the suspects have been taken into custody and are currently assisting with the ongoing investigation.
Approximately seven minutes into the show, which was being broadcast live on GhanaWeb, voices of agitation could be heard in the background as host Mzgee introduced the programme. The evident confusion on the host’s face was followed by an extended break in production before the program was eventually taken off the air.
Numerous reports that emerged after the sudden interruption of the production, suggest that the show was disrupted by a group of men who entered the studios with hostile intentions.
According to these reports, the agitated individuals had entered the studio with the apparent aim of confronting Kwame Asare Obeng, also known as A Plus, who is a regular panel member on the show.
Subsequent videos shared on social media, depict a chaotic scene within the UTV studio, with several men calling out for A Plus.
“We are waiting for A Plus today… A Plus has to explain to us why he tore our paper from the NPP party. We are here, we are waiting for A Plus. We are protecting our party property,” one of the men is heard shouting in the studio.
On September 30, 2023, musician and activist Kwame A Plus took to live TV to shred a letter addressed to the management of UTV by the NPP, in which they demanded reforms to the United Showbiz programme.
A Plus, a regular panelist on the show, read a copy of the letter during the September 30 broadcast and strongly criticized its content and the propriety of its issuance.
He referred to the letter as “useless” and argued that such letters continued to tarnish the reputation of the NPP, potentially undermining clear constitutional provisions regarding media independence.
A Plus tore his copy of the letter into pieces, stating, “This letter is revolting because we have received calls from people threatening to shut down UTV United Showbiz,” he emphasized.
He added that 90percent of UTV’s viewership consisted of NPP supporters, yet they were praised for their contributions to the station.
“NPP members should refrain from such actions and never write such a letter again. This letter is absurd.
“Nobody in this country can dictate what we do on this show, especially when the President of Ghana is a seasoned lawyer, who believes in the rule of law. Don’t ever write such things again,” he stressed.
The NPP leadership had written to UTV, expressing concern that panelists on the United Showbiz programme frequently criticized and mocked the government.
This trend, they argued, raised questions about the programme’s motives and noted an unwarranted surge in disparaging comments targeting President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, during recent episodes.
Meanwhile, the National Democratic Congress, has issued a statement condemning the attack in no uncertain terms.
According to the statement which was issued on Sunday October 8, and signed by the Communications Officer of the party, Sammy Gyamfi, it said the party has learned with utter disgust, a dastardly attack that was visited on the studios of United Television (UTV), last night.
Published below is the full statement
NDC CONDEMNS NPP’S VIOLENT ATTACK ON THE STUDIOS OF UTV*
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has learned with utter disgust, a dastardly attack that was visited on the studios of United Television (UTV), last night.
While the station’s prime time entertainment show, ‘United Showbiz’ was ongoing, a group of uncivilized hooligans belonging to the ruling New Patriotic Party stormed the studios of UTV, disrupted the live programme and proceeded to threaten to assault the host and her guests.
It later emerged that these thugs were led by the Klottey Korle Youth Organizer of the New Patriotic, under the orders of Ernest Owusu Bempah, a Deputy Director of Communications and other leading figures of the ruling party.
The NDC condemns this shameful act in no uncertain terms, as there can be no place for such uncivilised and beastly conduct in a democracy.
Yesterday’s event sets Ghana’s democracy back and further erodes our fast dwindling press freedom fortunes as a country.
We in the NDC are deeply worried about the level of intolerance of dissenting views in Ghana today under the tyrannical Akufo-Addo/Bawumia/NPP government. We completely condemn the extent to which the ruling NPP is determined to go to institutionalise a culture of silence.
The senseless attack we witnessed yesterday was clearly goaded by recent antagonistic posturing of high-ups in government and the NPP towards UTV and its flagship ‘United Showbiz’ programme.
It is instructive that this attack on UTV was preceded by a letter from the New Patriotic Party’s National Secretariat a few days ago, which sought to brazenly impose an editorial policy on the station. This was followed by threats by leading figures of the NPP to ensure the illegal closure of the station.
Indeed, some of the NPP hooligans have been captured on video saying that they attacked the studios of UTV to defend and protect the President, the Vice President, Alhaji Mahamudu Bawumia and the NPP from legitimate criticism by some members of the panel.
Yesterday’s event adds to the litany of attacks that goons associated with the NPP have visited on people performing their lawful duties, including a pregnant judge sitting in open court in Kumasi some time back.
The latest incident is yet another clearest evidence of how intolerant, violent and tyrannical this Akufo-Addo/Bawumia NPP government has become.
We call on the Ghana Journalists Association and other vanguards of free speech, civil society as well as traditional and moral society to speak out before it is too late.
Our press freedom and democratic credentials are under serious attack, and to remain silent in these times is to encourage the triumph of evil.
We further call on the Ghana Police Service to expeditiously investigate this incident and ensure that all the culprits are duly prosecuted in accordance with law.
The NDC shall be monitoring every development on this important matter and will not accept anything short of justice.
SAMMY GYAMFI ESQ.
(National Communication Officer)