Lawyer of the Judicial Service of Ghana Thaddeus Sory has jabbed President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Affail Monney over his comments regarding a directive given to media houses to pull down stories that put justices of the Supreme Court in bad light.
Mr Sory told TV3’s Martin Asiedu-Darteh that not every free speech, especially threats and insults, are permitted under the democracy Ghana is practicing at the moment.
The directive was issued on behalf of the Service by lawyers Sory@Law.
They claim some of the publications in the media are “a series of incendiary, hateful and offensive statements, and speeches. . .against the Justices”.
But at a press conference in Accra on Monday, March 1, the President of the GJA said his outfit “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”.
“Unsurprisingly, our telephones have been flooded with calls, both local and international, from journalists, media watch organizations, defenders of press freedom and free expression, seeking to know what exactly was happening since that contentious statement by the Judicial Service was issued.
“It is universally acknowledged that media right is not absolute, but qualified. And legal experts teach us 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 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. ‘Contextually, 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.”
Responding to the concerns raised by the GJA president, Mr Sory said: “There are certain aspects of free speech that cannot be tolerated in the context of our democracy.
“Every speech or statement or other publication which brings the administration of justice into disrepute or interfere with the administration of justice such as threatening judges, if the journalist doesn’t use them but permits his platform to be used, you know what the effect of it is when you permit something to be done.
“If the president of the GJA said such statements should not be pulled down, it leaves me with an impression of the kind of presidency he is giving to the people he leads.”