The Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) has described as scandalous the order by the Judicial Service of Ghana to media houses to pull down content it deemed as “spiteful” and “vengeful”.
The Association said such actions are a threat to the envious press freedom of the country.
“To put it mildly, the GJA is dumbfounded by this obnoxious order, which is pregnant with insidious threats to media freedom in Ghana, which prides itself on being a land of freedom and justice. This is scandalous, to say the least.”
Even though the association acknowledged that freedom of speech is not absolute, it called on the judiciary to desist from acts that intend to instil fear and a culture of silence in the media.
“It is generally accepted that media freedom is not absolute, but rather conditional. And legal experts teach us that such credentials must be in compliance with the law, obey due process, and be used to achieve valid goals and objectives.
“The GJA believes that the Judicial Service should have avoided any perception or circumstance that has the potential to instil fear and encourage a culture of silence, which Ghana was embroiled in during the time of autocratic misrule, in drafting the scandalous comment”, association emphasized.
GJA has urged its members not to cow to the threats of the Judicial Service by pulling down content but rather make use of the ethics that guide their operations in the country such as rejoinders if the need be.
The association has asked its members to act responsibly and reminded the Judiciary that it’s not beyond reproach.
“In this case, the plain truth is that the legal system is not immune to criticism. However, critique must be presented in a way that does not jeopardize the administration of justice. To that end, the GJA encourages the media to remain calm and not be seduced into scandalizing the court with unhinged statements or verbal stones, no matter how proactive the Judicial Service’s statement might be.
“It is ingrained in our minds that the judiciary has the right to hold any erring journalist or media organisation in contempt, provided that acceptable procedures and processes are followed. Any unprecedented or antiquated practise that smacks of censorship, coercion, or resuscitation of the culture of silence, which can have unforeseen sociopolitical implications, should be avoided at all costs in this context. The GJA is unmistakable of the opinion that the Judicial Service’s attacks against the media contradict logic and lead to an unjustified attack on all tenets of freedom of expression and freedom of the press guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution,” the GJA adds.
Arguing further the association asserts that “if not immediately reversed, the judiciary’s ill-advised, ill-timed, ill-crafted, and ill-issued statement could cause a tsunami, lowering the court’s prestige in the eyes of freedom lovers and critical people, polluting the media climate, undermining our impressive global media rankings, and dimming the beacon of our democracy”.
Meanwhile, the executive secretary of the Media Foundation for West Africa, Sulemana Braimah wonders what kind of speech or content can be considered vengeful or spiteful.
Reacting to the order by the Judicial Service on Starr FM Braimah said “what kind of statement will be deemed hateful and all these words that the letter put there because there were no examples of publications. If a media house thinks there’s something wrong with what the judiciary is doing, criticisms are in order but it shouldn’t be direct attacks on them.”
He also reminded the Judiciary that no institution can coerce the masses to accord it respect. “I think I must say no institution can force the masses to accord it with respect. As a country, we must be mindful of how we are taking our partisanship and not to undermine the institution that’s supposed to keep our democracy going”.