There is widespread criticism directed at the Speaker of Parliament following a threat to withdraw accreditation of defiant journalists.
Prof. Mike Oquaye, speaking after a complaint by Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu about journalists leaving the chamber to cover a press briefing by Ellembelle MP, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah on President Akufo-Addo’s State of the Nation Address, said journalists must prioritise proceedings in the chamber.
Anything contrary, the Speaker indicated, would be defiant behaviour.
“You are here as guests by my permission because of the importance this House attaches to the…profession. Any such deviation would make you an unwelcome guest and your welcome would be duly withdrawn,” the Speaker said.
Those comments have erupted the fury of journalists who have accused Prof. Oquaye of exceeding his constitutional powers by telling the press what they can and cannot cover.
Article 162 of Ghana’s Constitution guarantees freedom and independence of the press.
Clause 4 of that Article, states that “Editors and publishers of newspapers and other institutions of the mass media shall not be subject to control or interference by Government, nor shall they be penalized or harassed for their editorial opinions and views, or the content of their publications.”
Speaking on Joy FM’s Top Story Thursday, private legal practitioner and host of JoyNews’ new analysis programme Newsfile, Samson Lardy Anyenini while, quoting these provisions of the constitution, described the Speaker’s directives as “disgusting.”
“This is an infringement of the constitution in many parts,” the private legal practitioner said, adding that Prof. Oquaye “has no business conducting himself in that manner.”
Contributing to the debate, Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Sulemana Braimah said he is surprised at the very controversial and disturbing news.
He said it is the media’s responsibility to convey to the people whatever happens in Parliament and it is not the Speaker’s prerogative to determine what is newsworthy and what is not.
“The media cannot be dictated to on what to cover and what not to cover,” Mr. Braimah echoed.
But the Parliamentary Service has been fighting what it claims is “media reports purporting that the Speaker of Parliament is seeking to gag the media.”
A statement from Parliament’s Director of Public Affairs, Kate Addo said at no time…has Prof. Oquaye sought to prevent the media from doing its work.