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29.10.2002 General News

The $125,000 Saga And Freedom Of Speech

By Chronicle/McKinley
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Last week, The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) gave a directive that journalists should treat the $125,000 saga that involves a nameless journalist as a rumor and a rumor only. The decision by the GJA to give out the directive was based on the fact that no one has been able to establish the allegation of monies having changed hands to influence anyone. The Chronicle agrees perfectly with this GJA decision since the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is failing to come out to give credence to the story by naming names and citing witnesses. Without any prejudice to the case or those involved in it, the paper would advise that all those who have taken sides politically in this matter. That the issues at stake is not one in which party or political interests should be pushed. True, it is an issue of credibility essentially involving two people and the profession they represent, and all Ghanaians have a right to, "watch the watchman." Therefore, stone throwing at the media is natural. Beyond this problem is the temptation for some people to go beyond the mere allegations, and openly castigate Mr. Kwesi Pratt, Jnr., merely because he keeps opposing the ruling party. Kwesi Pratt may be a controversial figure, but there is nothing criminal in a person being controversial. He reserves the right to criticize anything he finds wrong with government policy in so far as he does not so constitutionally, and without any recourse to arms. Free speech, freedom of expression and civil liberties in general are meant to enable normal right-thinking people make to informed choices. If the whole world says Kwesi is wrong, and he insists that he is right, that should be seen as normal in a democracy. We should not, therefore, resort to crying for the blood of the man simply because he chooses to think or talk differently. For a government that appears to enjoy good press and a less hostile media environment, there may also be inherent dangers; especially where we gloss over criticism from elements we tend to see as enemies. The saga of the $125,000 may or may not go away. It may be a rumor, or time may prove it otherwise. Whatever this saga reveals in the coming days and months, we do not necessarily justify or vilify people like Mr. Pratt who have made it a custom to perpetually criticize government. For all some of us would want to believe, we need the Harruna Attas, Kweku Baakos and Captain Sowus, much as we need the Kwesi Pratts and Jojo Bruce Quansahs. If all we would be doing is engaging in healthy talk without resorting to arms or terrorists methods to solve our national problems, why don't we promote it and learn to be tolerant in every respect? The Chronicle believes that the nation has come a long way since December 31, 1981 when one and only one voice ruled in the nation. If we have opted for many voices and ugly noises in the name democracy, let us have it and be thankful for this dispensation.

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