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03.08.2005 General News

GJA to stop defamatory stories

The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) is seriously working towards strengthening peer review among its members to ensure that they do not publish libellous and defamatory stories about members of the public, particularly politicians.

It said the association had become grievously concerned about the numerous court cases against its members and the exorbitant costs in damages imposed on them when they were found guilty.

The association is hopeful that the peer review mechanism could help members to share experiences and also discuss ways of avoiding being dragged to court.

General Secretary of the GJA, Bright Blewu, was reacting to the numerous court cases against its members.

Over the last few months, more than four media houses including the Palaver and the National Democrat, had been slammed with heavy costs in damages totalling about ¢2 billion for publishing stories that were deemed to be libellous and defamatory about certain ministers of the government.

Mr Blewu said it was against that background that the peer review mechanism was necessary to protect media houses from being dragged to court.

He said the Editors Forum, which used to be vibrant in the past, became dormant and suggested that it had been revived as another way of making the media more responsible and cautious.

Mr Blewu appealed to politicians and other office holders to use the courts as the last resort in seeking redress for what they perceived to be libellous and defamatory stories published about them in some sections of the media.

According to him, it would be in the interest of democracy if the politicians used the National Media Commission (NMC) and the Ethics Committee of the GJA to resolve some of their concerns about publications.

He subsequently advised its members to respect the NMC and the GJA Ethics Committee by taking their reports seriously to restore the confidence the public had in the commission and the committee.

Mr Blewu said although the association would not hold brief for any of the media houses, it would want affected persons to use the services of the commission to reach a settlement.

He pointed out that although the NMC had no power to prosecute, its role in the democratic dispensation was crucial.

Mr Blewu said the public helped journalists to get the Criminal Libel Law out of the statute books and they must, therefore, be respected.