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How I named, shamed and jailed: Anas Aremeyaw Anas at TED2013

Posted by: Thu-Huong Ha
Photos: James Duncan Davidson

Photos: James Duncan Davidson

Anas Aremeyaw Anas can’t show you his face, but his name carries enough weight. Famous in Ghana for his investigative journalism, Anas’ stories like “Enemies of the nation,” about corruption at customs in the Port of Tema, have blown the cover on crime all over Africa.

He started 14 years ago, when he had just come out of college. He received a tip that police were taking bribes from kids in the streets, so he decided to go undercover selling peanuts. Thus began his dedication to exposing corruption through immersive journalism, following 3 basic principles: naming, shaming and jailing.

Anas has gone undercover as a Catholic priest in a Bangkok prison and as a bartender in a Chinese sex mafia ring in Ghana. Thanks to Anas the mafia men in the latter story will be in prison for the next 40 years for the abuse of the sex workers.

Just last month Anas broke a story with the film Spirit Child, about the tragic practice in northern Ghana of killing deformed children believed to carry ill omens. Anas brought a prosthetic baby from London with a fake deformity and caught men in the act of preparing a concoction to have the baby killed. The police were standing by, and court proceedings are happening now. In “Spell of the albino” Anas follows the albino limb trade in Tanzania, where albinos are regularly killed because their body parts are believed to be lucky in witchcraft rituals. He went undercover as a businessman looking to get rich and caught the practice on film for the first time.

TED2013_0063490_D41_2303And today at TED, Anas breaks his latest story. He’s been undercover for the past six months at Nsawam Prison in southern Ghana, where conditions are inhumane. He shows a shocking video of a room in the prison full of dead bodies piled atop one another. The sanitation conditions in the prison are unspeakably bad, and it’s easier to get heroin, cocaine and cannabis in the prison than out. He will be breaking the story in Ghana in a month.

Not everyone has been a fan of Anas’ work. Some accuse him of a breach in ethics. But as he says, what’s the point of a journalist who doesn’t benefit society? He concludes: “What the evil man has destroyed, the good man has built.” So fight, and build again.

Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ talk is now available for viewing. Watch it here »