The Judicial Service has responded to the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) over that latter’s statement demanding a complete reversal of the former’s “obnoxious threats” to media practice in the country.
“The statement issued on behalf of the Judiciary dealt with “incendiary, hateful and offensive statements against members of the Judiciary.” This being the heading, how did the GJA reach the conclusion on its heading, that the demand contained in the statement had to do with “threats against the media?” the written response from the Service noted.
Media houses were recently ordered by the Judicial Service 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.
The GJA, however, found the directive condemnable saying it was an attempt by the Judiciary to stifle press freedom in Ghana.
President of the media fraternity, Dr. Roland Affail Monney who reacted to the directive maintained it was an evident threat to journalists and as such be seen as a horrible move least expected from the third arm of government.
“The GJA is, to put it mildly, 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. With all due respect, this is scandalous. In crafting the scandalous statement, the GJA is principally of the view that the Judicial Service ought to have avoided any impression or situation that has the tendency to instil fear and promote a culture of silence into which Ghana had been enveloped during the period of autocratic misrule.”
But the Judicial Service through its senior lead counsel, Thaddeus Sory will have none of that.
In its reply to the GJA the Judicial Service stated, it is very appalled by the posturing and lack of appreciation of the issues by the GJA.
While accusing the GJA President of failing to uphold basic journalistic principles and ethics in addressing the matter, the Judicial Service further expressed shock at the choice of words by Dr. Monney describing them as “unbefitting of an association that forms an important part of our democracy”.
“A reading of the whole statement issued by the Judiciary will reveal no threat. As for cautioning that media institutions should avoid permitting their platforms “to be deployed in a manner that not only threatens our constitutional order and democracy but obviously, adversely interferes with the due administration of justice and also, brings it, into disrepute” it is a general statement which all journalists are taught. Why then are journalists threatened by a statement of a position they know and must expect in the circumstances clearly stated”, the Judicial Service maintained.
Dr. Monney also stated 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”.
The association also noted in a statement that if the threats by the judiciary are not taken back, they could go a long way to dent the image of the court and the country as a whole.
“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.”
What the Judicial Service believes
For the Service though, the “hateful, spiteful, vengeful and incendiary communication against Justices of the Supreme Court remains impermissible and is at a loss to why such statements should not be pulled down.
It insists without any fear of contradiction whatsoever that the statement issued on behalf of the Judiciary acknowledges press freedom, affirms the law that free speech must be contained with the limits allowed by law and agrees that such speech must foster legitimate aims and objectives.
“Given the obvious unity in the parameters of free speech agreed upon between the GJA and the statement issued on behalf of the Judiciary, one finds the very caustic language contained in a statement which cautions against the excessive use of words with the pelting effect of stones quite difficult to reconcile”, the Service said to bark at the GJA.