The Ghana Journalists Association has described as uncalled-for, the action of Mr Joe Baidoe-Ansah, Minister of Trade, Industry and President's Special Initiative (PSI), when he stormed into the “Good Evening Ghana” programme on Metro TV on April 24, 2008.
It has, therefore, called on him to render an apology to Metro TV and Dr Nii Moi Thompson, the panellist whom he sought to prevent from expressing his view.
A press statement issued in Accra by the GJA said the programme, which was being telecast live by Metro TV at the invitation of the UNCTAD XII organisers, was watched by millions of people across the globe and the GJA considered the minister's action as an embarrassment to the nation and to the Ghanaian media in particular.
The statement said the GJA came to those conclusions after separate engagements with the parties involved in the matter.
It said Mr Baidoe-Ansah, who was President of the UNCTAD XII, should have exercised restraint and tolerance in his protestation against Dr Thompson, whom he claimed was politicking on the conference grounds, contrary to rules and regulations governing that conference.
“Although the GJA of which he is a member will not want to begrudge him for his explanation, we think his decision to storm into a live programme was uncalled-for and we are glad that he has accordingly apologised to the public for his action,” it said.
“Even though we appreciate the apology already rendered to the public by Mr Baidoe-Ansah, we wish to call on him to also render an apology to Metro TV and Dr Thompson,” it stated.
“As a journalist and a former member of the National Media Commission, Mr Baidoe-Ansah should have been mindful of an action which could give the impression that he, as a leading member of the government, was showcasing the government's distaste for critical opinion,” it added.
It said democracy could only survive in an atmosphere of free speech and tolerance, adding that “we may detest the opinions of others but we should not be seen to be physically preventing people from expressing views that run contrary to ours even if it was done on unfair grounds”.
The statement said the Kufuor administration had demonstrated its preparedness to expand the frontiers of free speech and freedom of the press by the repeal of the Criminal Libel law and Ghana had scored high marks on the global free expression index because of the diversity of its media landscape.
It added that no matter the shortcomings and the ethical breaches, the present openness engendered by the media must be encouraged and nurtured to grow.
“The GJA therefore calls on the government not to allow individuals within its fold to create the impression that the government has regretted the repeal of criminal libel law,” the statement said.
The statement said the incident brought to the fore the importance of a Broadcasting Law to clearly establish the rules of production and engagement in the broadcast industry.