Let Cool Heads Prevail

Ghana these days has become an interesting place. Depending on where you stand, the country is  witnessing a drama of ironies. Yet still some on one side feel that free speech is being sanitized. Whichever way you look at it Ghanaians are still talking despite the price some have had to pay for talking.

The genesis of this happenstance of ironies is the trial of the NPP flag bearer’s petition in contest at the Supreme Court challenging the 2012 election results and the media observations about it. One would think that with the court virtually in the living rooms of Ghanaians owing to live television coverage, media comment and interpretation would consider fairness and balance. Unfortunately, and of course, owing to the nature of the debate in the court, it is not. Political hues have crept into observations in the media. And some even go to the extent of predicting the verdict and its aftermath. In the process one radio commentator has been warned and banned from the court. Two others were not so lucky as the ugly head of contempt of court emerged.

Stephen Atubiga of the NDC earned a three-day jail sentence for his quixotic rejection of the verdict if it goes for the petitioners threatening mayhem if it so happens. Ken Kuranchie, managing editor of the Daily Searchlight had to endure ten days of incarceration for standing his ground and daring to defend an article he wrote questioning why Sammy Awuku was dragged to the court. He also asked for directions from the judges on how the media should approach the issue. Some say he got ten days for his intransigence. Our hearts go out to them.

Questions arising have been met severally. Adherents to the principle of free speech opine that the justices are overreacting. Even hate speech is a protectable right, they contend. Since the courts happen to be the protectors of free we tend to agree. A legal scholar has even questioned the propriety of the justices in enforcing contempt charges and would rather Ghana descend into a military dictatorship.

Others, including lawyers, think that some of the pronouncements and publications constitute contempt and must be curbed to ensure the reputation of the judiciary. At least, Sam Okudzeto, a legal luminary in his own right shares that thought.

Amandla, like many Ghanaians, believes in free speech.  But we believe in the responsible exercise of rights too. Edward Akufo Addo, one time chief justice of Ghana and president had this to say on contempt of court:  “I have stated that the courts are not above criticism but the courts will not allow themselves to be subjected to pressures emanating from irresponsible and romantic criticisms.”

To both the court and the media therefore, we counsel restraint, for they share the same territory as bastions of freedom and democracy. The management of the petition in the court and the verdict thereof should only be regarded as a further notch in the development of democracy in the West African nation.

The verdict can go anywhere but the victory would be for Ghana.


Posted by on Jul 18 2013. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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