15.09.2004 General News

Reporters barred from reporting from Court

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Accra, Sept. 15, GNA - A Circuit Court in Accra trying Alhaji Saeed Sinare, former National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Ayawaso Central and another suspect on alleged electoral malpractices on Wednesday disallowed three reporters from covering the proceedings.

The Judge, Mrs Wilhemina Hammond said journalists from the Graphic Group of Communications, New Times Corporation and the Ghana News Agency should have applied to the Court's Registrar for permission to take down notes in the court. She said it was an offence to report on proceeding from the courtroom without permission. Mrs Hammond said: "If you need the proceedings of the court, you have to apply through the court's registry and the court would release a certified copy of proceedings to you." You need to get the certified copy from the Court before you can go ahead with your publication. You can sit down and listen to the proceeding but do not write." When the reporters tried to leave the courtroom, the judge ordered them to sit down.

When the case was called this morning, the court asked witnesses who had not testified already to go out and they obliged. Earlier, when the Judge enquired whether there were pressmen in the court, the reporters stood up and mentioned their names and their respective organisations. This was written down by a court clerk who was ordered to do so. The court asked the reporters to sit down and listen to proceedings. But Mr Stephen Sah, a reporter of the Daily Graphic, explained that at the Supreme Court a Press Gallery was allocated to journalists.

Mrs Hammond said the two courts were different adding, "In my Court reporters should apply through the registry before you can write anything from the Court." Mr Sah who tried leave during the trial was called back to sit down until the case was over. When the court rose at the end of proceedings, the reporters were asked to meet in the chamber of Mrs Hammond. In the chamber, she asked the reporters who were already seated "Have I asked you to sit down"?

Mrs Hammond told the reporters that they were expected to focus on cases in the courtroom and not on issues concerning her adding, "I don't have any problem with you reporting on the case but don't focus on me". She said: "If I give orders and you do not understand, I expect you to come to me and I will ask the typist to type the order out and give you a certified copy."

In America, journalists are searched thoroughly before they go into the courtroom and the name of judges are not heard." The reporters went to the Judicial Service Officials to enquire whether it was an offence to report from the court but they were told that the officers were at a meeting. Sinare is charged with conspiring with Stanley Nii Armah, an Electoral Officer, for allegedly making 26 illegal entries into the voters' register. They have both pleaded not guilty.

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