Anas Aremeyaw Anas: The True Superhero of Naming, Shaming and Jailing

Listen to Anas’ True Spies Podcast: Veil of Beads, The Method & The Madness

Anas Aremeyaw Anas: Shining a light on abuse

There is little doubt that Anas Aremeyaw Anas is the most prolific undercover reporter in history, with 29 separate covert investigations under his belt already, and by now the most remarkable thing about him is that he has managed to preserve his anonymity - shielded behind his famous bead mask - for so long. This True Superhero’s ability to fulfill his catchphrase of “naming, shaming, and jailing” relies upon his superpower of anonymity, and he has gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain it. 

Anas Aremeyaw Anas: The True Superhero of Naming, Shaming and Jailing


Journalism spycraft

By necessity, biographical details of his life are thin on the ground. We do know that his father was a soldier in the Ghanaian army, and he grew up on a military barracks where he witnessed appalling violence and human rights abuses; he has spoken of seeing taxi drivers thrashed for daring to ask for payment after bringing soldiers back to the base, and witnessed many other injustices carried out against innocent civilians. These early experiences caused him to pursue a career in journalism and he attended the University of Accra where he eventually acquired degrees in both journalism and law.

Anas swiftly began putting his education to good use. His many undercover investigations have made him a star throughout Africa, and there are far too many to cover here; fortunately he took the time to speak to our True Spies podcast about some of his most dangerous investigations, including his time going undercover as a psychiatric ward patient to bust a drug ring, and his two-year investigation into bribery and corruption among the administrators of African football, which he has described as the most dangerous of his career.

Anas Aremeyaw Anas: The True Superhero of Naming, Shaming and Jailing

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Listen to Anas’ True Spies Podcast: Veil of Beads, The Method & The Madness

Anas Aremeyaw Anas: Shining a light on abuse

There is little doubt that Anas Aremeyaw Anas is the most prolific undercover reporter in history, with 29 separate covert investigations under his belt already, and by now the most remarkable thing about him is that he has managed to preserve his anonymity - shielded behind his famous bead mask - for so long. This True Superhero’s ability to fulfill his catchphrase of “naming, shaming, and jailing” relies upon his superpower of anonymity, and he has gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain it. 

Anas Aremeyaw Anas: The True Superhero of Naming, Shaming and Jailing


Journalism spycraft

By necessity, biographical details of his life are thin on the ground. We do know that his father was a soldier in the Ghanaian army, and he grew up on a military barracks where he witnessed appalling violence and human rights abuses; he has spoken of seeing taxi drivers thrashed for daring to ask for payment after bringing soldiers back to the base, and witnessed many other injustices carried out against innocent civilians. These early experiences caused him to pursue a career in journalism and he attended the University of Accra where he eventually acquired degrees in both journalism and law.

Anas swiftly began putting his education to good use. His many undercover investigations have made him a star throughout Africa, and there are far too many to cover here; fortunately he took the time to speak to our True Spies podcast about some of his most dangerous investigations, including his time going undercover as a psychiatric ward patient to bust a drug ring, and his two-year investigation into bribery and corruption among the administrators of African football, which he has described as the most dangerous of his career.

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Naming, shaming, and jailing

As his fame has grown, his anonymity has become harder to protect but Anas is a highly methodical investigator who goes to extreme lengths to ensure that his disguises and cover stories are watertight. Over the years he has disguised himself as women, white men, and even a rock, and he makes extensive use of make-up artists and prosthetics in order to sell his subterfuge to unsuspecting targets. This sometimes goes beyond mere disguise; during one investigation Anas posed as the father of a disabled child to expose someone who had been accused of poisoning unwanted children. Rather than put a real child at risk, Anas commissioned a prosthetic baby that took months to build, but was worth the effort. He successfully managed to dupe the poisoner into applying the poison before signaling for waiting police to make the arrest. 

That was a successful example of collaborating with law enforcement, but Anas has spoken in the past about the unique challenges of carrying out this sort of work in Ghana: ”People do things with impunity… you have huge businessmen taking you to court, you have people wanting to take your life, so I said to myself if I want to do a story, it must be evidence-based… so that if you took me to court you would lose, if you decided to attack me society would come to my defense. When I come, I don’t just publish, I team up with law enforcement agencies; as journalists we do not have powers of arrest and there is nothing more painful than doing a story and finding out the next morning that the same criminal that you did the story about is walking with you on the street.” This urgent need for effective collaboration with police and the judiciary eventually caused Anas to turn his investigative focus on the people he relied upon the most - the courts of Accra. 

Who watches the watchers?

For his two-year investigation into the Ghanaian judiciary, Anas employed arguably his best cover - his own face. He wandered the halls of Accra’s courtrooms without any disguise and throughout this period he offered bribes to 34 judges, magistrates, and court officials in exchange for reduced sentencing of criminals while secretly recording these transactions. The bribes were not always financial. Several corrupt officials were caught on camera agreeing to pervert the course of justice in exchange for livestock and food. Anas premiered his resulting film, titled Ghana In The Eyes Of God: Epic of Injustice in 2015 in front of record-breaking crowds with queues that brought downtown Accra to a halt. The ensuing scandal rocked the Ghanaian establishment and led to some extraordinary responses, including a lawyer for a group of accused judges who declared that anybody who saw the film was themselves in contempt of court and should expect to be punished. The final outcome was very different; 20 of the 21 judges named in the film were dismissed.  

Anas Aremeyaw Anas: The True Superhero of Naming, Shaming and Jailing
A typical Ghanain newspaper headline about Anas from 2010

Bouncing back with integrity

The success of that investigation illustrates the enormous progress that Anas himself has made since his first undercover report in 1999 - known simply as “The Burger Story” - where he posed as a mobile food vendor in order to expose corruption of police officers on the streets of Accra. The increase in importance of his targets, and the degree of attention Anas has been able to bring to their corruption, has been incredible. It has led to an uneasy relationship with Ghanaian authorities, but it has also led to shifts in society and enormous levels of public support; the Epic of Injustice film led to numerous pop songs being released in Ghana in support of Anas, and a trend on social media where fans would seek to get the “Anas Look”, replicating his infamous bead mask. 

There is a tradeoff for Anas between his increased celebrity and his ability to carry out investigations. The degree of danger he faces increases with every conviction and he has seen colleagues murdered in reprisal attacks for his work, but he views the traumatic personal consequences of his investigations as a price worth paying for the results. When asked if he felt he was doing good, he responded: ”What would I call good? Good would be the impact of the story. Did the story go down well? Yes it did. On most occasions I’ve had traumatic experiences turning out to be very good stories and having great impact... My journalism is influenced by my society, I am a product of the society. There is no point in doing journalism that doesn’t lead to the progress of society. My journalism is people-centered, and that’s what I do.” For this True Superhero, the enthusiastic support he has received and the inspiration he has provided to others who seek to fight corruption and injustice serve as vindication of his methods, just as much as the huge number of people who he has successfully named, shamed, and jailed. As he explained, those convictions inevitably lead to the progress he is so keen to engender in Ghanain society: “When we make mistakes, no matter who we are, we have to be honest, we have to admit that, because that’s the only way we move forward as a society. If you are honest and transparent, even if you fall you bounce back with integrity”. 

Listen to Anas’ True Spies Podcast: Veil of Beads, The Method & The Madness
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