Click on any phrase to play the video at that point.Close
Then I got a scoop. The scoop was quite a very simple story. Police officers were taking bribes from hawkers who were hawking on the streets. As a young reporter, I thought that I should do it in a different way, so that it has a maximum impact, since everybody knew that it was happening, and yet there was nothing that was keeping it out of the system.
This was what many call immersion journalism, or undercover journalism. I am an undercover journalist. My journalism is hinged on three basic principles: naming, shaming and jailing. Journalism is about results. It's about affecting your community or your society in the most progressive way. I have worked on this for over 14 years, and I can tell you, the results are very good.
One story that comes to mind in my undercover pieces is "Spirit Child." It was about children who were born with deformities, and their parents felt that once they were born with those deformities, they were not good enough to live in the society, so they were given some concoction to take and as a result they died. So I built a prosthetic baby, and I went into the village, pretended as though this baby had been born with a deformity, and here was the guys who do the killing. They got themselves ready. In their bids to kill, I got the police on standby, and they came that fateful morning to come and kill the child. I recall how they were seriously boiling the concoction. They put it on fire. It was boiling hot, getting ready to give to the kids. Whilst this was going on, the police I had alerted, they were on standby, and just as the concoction was ready, and they were about to give it to the kids, I phoned the police, and fortunately they came and busted them. As I speak now, they are before the courts. Don't forget the key principles: naming, shaming and jailing. The court process is taking place, and I'm very sure at the end of the day we will find them, and we will put them where they belong too.
Another key story that comes to mind, which relates to this spirit child phenomenon, is "The Spell of the Albinos." I'm sure most of you may have heard, in Tanzania, children who are born with albinism are sometimes considered as being unfit to live in society. Their bodies are chopped up with machetes and are supposed to be used for some concoctions or some potions for people to get money -- or so many, many stories people would tell about it. It was time to go undercover again. So I went undercover as a man who was interested in this particular business, of course. Again, a prosthetic arm was built. For the first time, I filmed on hidden camera the guys who do this, and they were ready to buy the arm and they were ready to use it to prepare those potions for people.
I am glad today the Tanzanian government has taken action, but the key issue is that the Tanzanian government could only take action because the evidence was available. My journalism is about hard core evidence. If I say you have stolen, I show you the evidence that you have stolen. I show you how you stole it and when, or what you used what you had stolen to do. What is the essence of journalism if it doesn't benefit society?
(Video) Official: He brought out some money from his pockets and put it on the table, so that we should not be afraid. He wants to bring the cocoa and send it to Cote d'Ivoire. So with my hidden intention, I kept quiet. I didn't utter a word. But my colleagues didn't know. So after collecting the money, when he left, we were waiting for him to bring the goods. Immediately after he left, I told my colleagues that since I was the leader of the group, I told my colleagues that if they come, we will arrest them.
Second official: I don't even know the place called [unclear]. I've never stepped there before. So I'm surprised. You see a hand counting money just in front of me. The next moment, you see the money in my hands, counting, whereas I have not come into contact with anybody. I have not done any business with anybody. Reporter: When Metro News contacted investigative reporter
Anas Aremeyaw Anas for his reaction, he just smiled and gave this video extract he did not use in the documentary recently shown onscreen. The officer who earlier denied involvement pecks a calculator to compute the amount of money they will charge on the cocoa to be smuggled.
Anas Aremeyaw Anas: This was another story on anticorruption. And here was him, denying. But you see, when you have the hard core evidence, you are able to affect society. Sometimes these are some of the headlines that come. (Music)
John Evans Atta Mills: What Anas says is not something which is unknown to many of us, but please, those of you who are agents, and who are leading the customs officers into temptation, I'm telling you, Ghana is not going to say any good things to you about this.
I thought that I couldn't come here without giving you something special. I have a piece, and I'm excited that I'm sharing it for the first time with you here. I have been undercover in the prisons. I have been there for a long time. And I can tell you, what I saw is not nice. But again, I can only affect society and affect government if I bring out the hard core evidence. Many times, the prison authorities have denied ever having issues of drug abuse, issues of sodomy, so many issues they would deny that it ever happens. How can you obtain the hard core evidence?
So I was in the prison. ["Nsawan Prison"] Now, what you are seeing is a pile of dead bodies. Now, I happen to have followed one of my inmates, one of my friends, from his sick bed till death, and I can tell you it was not a nice thing at all. There were issues of bad food being served as I recall that some of the food I ate is just not good for a human being. Toilet facilities: very bad. I mean, you had to queue to get proper toilets to attend -- and that's what I call proper, when four of us are on a manhole. It is something that if you narrate it to somebody, the person wouldn't believe it. The only way that you can let the person believe is when you show hard core evidence. Of course, drugs were abundant. It was easier to get cannabis, heroin and cocaine, faster even, in the prison than outside the prison.
Evil in the society is an extreme disease. If you have extreme diseases, you need to get extreme remedies. My kind of journalism might not fit in other continents or other countries, but I can tell you, it works in my part of the continent of Africa, because usually, when people talk about corruption, they ask, "Where is the evidence? Show me the evidence." I say, "This is the evidence." And that has aided in me putting a lot of people behind bars.
You see, we on the continent are able to tell the story better because we face the conditions and we see the conditions. That is why I was particularly excited when we launched our "Africa Investigates" series where we investigated a lot of African countries. As a result of the success of the "Africa Investigates" series, we are moving on to World Investigates. By the end of it, a lot more bad guys on our continent will be put behind bars.
AAA: Sure. You know, undercover is all about setting the priorities right, so we got people to take me to court. So I went through the very legal process, because at the end of the day, the prison authorities want to check whether indeed you have been there or not, and that's how I got in there.
AAA: You see, undercover is always a last resort. Before we go undercover, we follow the rules. And I'm only comfortable and I'm purged of fear whenever I am sure that all the steps have been taken. I don't do it alone. I have a backup team who help ensure that the safety and all the systems are put in place, but you've got to take very intelligent decisions whenever they are happening. If you don't, you will end up losing your life. So yes, when the backup systems are put in place, I'm okay, I go in. Risky, yes, but it's a hazard of a profession. I mean, everybody has their hazard. And once you say that is yours, you've got to take it, as and when it comes.
CA: Well, you're an amazing human and you've done amazing work and you've taught us a story like no story I think any of us have heard before. And we're appreciative. We salute you. Thank you so much, Anas.
You can share this video by copying this HTML to your clipboard and pasting into your blog or web page.
need to get the latest Flash player.
Got an idea, question, or debate inspired by this talk? Start a TED Conversation.
Journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas has broken dozens of stories of corruption and organized crime all over Ghana -- without ever revealing his identity. In this talk (in which his face remains hidden) Anas shows grisly footage from some of his investigations and demonstrates the importance of facing injustice.
Anas Aremeyaw Anas is a Ghanaian undercover journalist and private eye who gathers hard evidence of crime and corruption, putting the perpetrators behind bars. Full bio »