Take erring journalists to court, not NMC - Judge
A High Court Judge for the Sunyani High Court, His Lordship Justice L.L. Mensah, has said that journalists who have defamed the reputations of personalities should be taken to court, instead of of the National Media Commission (NMC).
By so doing, he said, it would compel journalists to do thorough investigations before coming out with their reports.
Justice Mensah made the suggestion during the celebration of the World Press Freedom Day, organized by the Brong Ahafo chapter of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), and themed: “Radio: Prospects and Challenges of Nation Building.”
The Brong Ahafo Regional Chairman of the GJA, L.V. Amengor, explained that the celebration of Press Freedom Day was to enable all Ghanaians share views on the way forward for the country as far as the media, and particularly radio were concerned. He pointed out that the seemingly emerging dangerous practice of physical attacks against journalists by some aggrieved people, especially those in authority would no longer be tolerated in the country.
The Chairman announced that the GJA in the Brong Ahafo would no longer condone such barbaric practices from the public, adding “the courts are there and so is the National Media Commission, where aggrieved people may lodge their complaints for redress.”
According to Amengor, though unsubstantiated allegations could be made against innocent people, half truths and sometimes blatant lies would be propagated as truths, which went to jeopardize the integrity of some personalities, but which did not mandate anybody, no matter their powers, to look down upon the laws of this country and physically attack journalists.
The Brong Ahafo Deputy Regional Minster, Yaw Adjei Duffour, urged the owners of radio stations to be mindful of politicians and their parties as they would be using the media, especially the electronic media, to present their programmes and policies to the public in this year's elections, to ensure that the peace in the country took precedence over the personal interest of politicians.
In connection with this, the owners of FM stations have also been cautioned to make available competent and knowledgeable personnel to handle politicians and phone-in programmes, especially at crucial times like this election year to avoid any obscene interferences and personal attacks.
“The few ambitious politicians and people who could take advantage of radio and phone-in programmes to destabilise the country must never be entertained,” he added.
The Minister said through the liberalization of the air-waves, which had given rise to the establishment of local FM radio stations, the people had been given the opportunity not only to listen and know what was happening around them, but also express their views on important national issues.
According to Duffour, the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law by the NPP government had further mandated the people to comment and criticise the government and other people in authority without fear.
This he said had undoubtedly assisted the government to get the necessary feedback from the public on its policies and programmes before implementation.
In spite of the prospects of radio in national development and vibrant democratic governance, the minister stated that there were many challenges facing radio operators in the country.
Duffour, who emphasised on phone-in programmes of FM stations said that the programmes had became more political, and some times ill-tempered languages were used, which could easily plunge the country into chaos.
Another challenge he commented on was the lack of professionally trained presenters, which he said led to some presenters feeding the public with wrong information on issues of national importance, which could be dangerous as people believe whatever is said on radio.
He, therefore, urged presenters to plan and re-examine their programmes very well before presentation and also not entertain music that contained obscene words.
The Diocesan Bishop of the Sunyani Catholic Church who was also the chairman for the occasion, Rt. Rev. Bishop Mathew Kwasi Gyamfi, said the face of very nation was in the hands of the media and they must create a peaceful environment for the people.
The Bishop urged journalists not to take advantage of freedom of the media to report blindly thus creating problems for the nation.