The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has expressed shocking over a directive from the Judicial Service ordering journalists to pull down stories against Supreme Court Justices
According to Dr. Affail Monney, President of the Association, the Association is suprised by the directive especially when the Judiciary as an arm of government is not immune to criticism.
He contended that the GJA is plainly of the view that the threats by the Judicial Service against the media defy logic and are tantamount to an unwarranted assault on all the tenets of freedom of speech and freedom of the media as guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution.
“If not reversed immediately, the ill- advised , ill- timed, ill- crafted and ill- issued statement by the Judiciary can provoke a tsunamic backlash, lower the dignity of the court in the eyes of freedom lovers and critical citizens, pollute the media environment , undermine our impressive media rankings globally and dim the beacon of our democracy.”
The Judicial Service last week in a statement asked journalists to“ immediately pull down “ from their platforms “ statements and speeches which convey , and / or insinuate hateful, spiteful, vengeful, incendiary communication against justices of the
Supreme Court, especially, those hearing the election petition.”
Furthermore, it added that “the media must prevent the publication of such statements and speeches and threatened to take , what it called , “ appropriate action to ensure that the media do not abuse the right to free speech.”
At a news conference in Accra today, Dr. Monney said the GJA to put it mildly, is dumbstruck in reading this obnoxious directive pregnant with insidious threats to media freedom in Ghana which is touted as a land of freedom and justice., describing the statement as scandalous.
He stated that the development is a slap on the face of Ghana’s widely acclaimed position as a beacon of press freedom.
“Unsurprisingly, our telephones have been flooded with calls, both local and international , from journalists, media watch organisations, defenders of press freedom and free expression, seeking to know what exactly was happening since that contentious statement by the Judicial Service was issued.“
He noted that it is universally acknowledged that media right is not absolute, but qualified and that legal experts teach that such qualification must chime with the dictates of the law, due process, and must be exercised in such ways as to achieve legitimate aims and objectives.
In crafting the scandalous statement, the GJA president said is principally of the view that the Judicial Service ought to have avoided any impression or situation that has the tendency to instill fear and promote a culture of silence into which Ghana had been enveloped during the period of autocratic misrule.
“Criticism, they say, is a gift which all arms of government need. So it will be miscarriage of fairness to deny the Judiciary that gift. Ann Landers once said “ the naked truth is better than a well dressed lie.” Dr. Monney argued.
Contextually, the Ghana Journalists’ president continued: “the naked truth is that the Judicial is not immune from criticism. However, that criticism must be done in a manner that does not bring the administration of justice into disrepute. To this end, the GJA urges the media community to be calm , and not to be led into temptation to scandalize the court with unhinged comments or verbal stones , no matter how provocative the statement of the Judicial Service might be.“
The GJA he noted will like to remind its members that far from acting on the basis of any threat or intimidation to “immediately pull down” from their platforms as requested, the media should rather act in the spirit of the GJA Code of Ethics that says “A journalist corrects inaccuracies and mistakes at the earliest opportunity and offers a chance for a rejoinder and/or an apology as appropriate”.
Dr. Monney said the Judiciary has the power to commit any erring journalist or media house for contempt, using of course, acceptable protocols, and appropriate mechanisms, stressing that “What they should not consider at all in this context is any unprecedented or antiquated method which smacks of censorship, intimidation, or resuscitation of the culture of silence which can spell unthinkable socio- political consequences”