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18.11.2005 Feature Article

Letter From The President: Don’t kill ‘Palaver’

Letter From The President: Don’t kill ‘Palaver’
18.11.2005 LISTEN

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, If there is one newspaper I hate in this country it is the Palaver. The Palaver is to the NDC what the Statesman is to the NPP. The only difference is that the Statesman seems to do the NPP's propaganda with some intelligence and decorum. The Palaver delights in writing all sorts of vulgar untruths about me and my government officials. It hardly ever mentions my name without an insult. There is also a lot of profanity in the paper.

Most of the stories about me in the Palaver are based on lies and hearsay. As a result, the paper has lost its credibility – at least amongst those who are not die hard NDC supporters. Such is the scale of the loss of credibility that even when they write stories that are almost true, very few non-NDC followers take them serious. I never read the Palaver but sometimes, I hear about some of the awful things they write about me. Most of the stories they have written about me are outright fabrications and decidedly libellous. But I have been very tolerant of them. I have decided that the Palaver is not a paper worth taking to court. Otherwise, I would have filed, at least, about 200 libel cases against the paper. But not all men are as forgiving as I am. I tend to just laugh at newspaper articles that bring my reputation into question. Most people will not tolerate any publication of the sort. You see, when you become an excellent one (and you are in your second term in office) you don't care much about what people say about you. On the other hand if you have presidential ambitions (like Manhack) you need to guard your reputation as you guard your balls or your eyes. You don't look on unconcerned as a newspaper editor drags your name through the mud. That's why Manhack took the Palaver to court for writing an article about him which suggested that he was corrupt. My younger brother – who has no presidential ambitions – also took filed a suit against the Palaver for suggesting that he cannot win any business deals without my support.

As a result of the two lawsuits, the Palaver has been instructed to pay punitive damages amounting to two billion cedis. That's much more than the combined net worth of all the private newspapers in Sikaman. Obviously, the Palaver can't pay. In all this I see some unseen forces operating in a very heavy-handed manner to bring down the Palaver. I think that the damages imposed on the Palaver are ridiculously too “punitive”. Manhack's reputation and that of my brother are definitely worth more than two billion cedis. Reputation is priceless. But when it is established that a man's reputation has been soiled by a newspaper, I think it is wrong for a judge to impose such heavy fines that are impossible to pay and could eventually lead to the collapse of the newspaper. What was the judge thinking? Does he want to punish the newspaper or he wants to kill it?

As you may be aware, the editor of the paper has launched a special appeal for fund to help him pay the damages. Otherwise, his house will be sold and he will be thrown on the streets. The man has been so desperate that somewhere last week, he appears to have taken some unusual measures to win more public sympathy. He was declared missing after he had been supposedly attacked by some hooded thugs. He resurfaced a few days later, claiming that he had not been missing – he had just gone to a medical officer friend of his (about two hours' drive from where the alleged attack took place) for treatment. The “long and short” of the matter is that the man needs help – otherwise his life will be ruined. I see his predicament and I think that he has won my sympathy. That's why I am writing this letter to publicly ask Manhack and my brother to tamper justice with mercy. BQ, the editor of the Palaver, has become too “morbor morbor” and he needs help. If his business collapses and his house is taken from him, he will become a destitute. Please have mercy on him.

Forgive him.

I am not in anyway suggesting that he should go unpunished. He deserves it. But the punishment should not destroy his life and his business. That's why I want to see this matter resolved in a very amicable manner. BQ should first eat humble pie and go to Manhack and my brother to render a verbal apology. He should then go to the court and tell the judge that he has realized that he was wrong. In fact, he should tell the judge that he has realized his folly and he is ready to make amends in a less expensive and destructive manner. He should offer to devote a whole page in the paper every day to apologise to the men he has offended. I expect Manhack and my brother to graciously accept BQ's apology so that we can all go on with our lives (if not as friends, as good neighbours living in one big Sikaman). Forgiveness is also next to godliness.

You see our country needs papers like the Palaver and editors like BQ. Otherwise, how will anyone learn the good from the bad? I must say that the Palaver is a crappy newspaper but it helps to keep me and my government officials on our toes. I like the fact that the Palaver sees nothing good about me and they will go to every length to 'expose' me. This makes me very determined to also go to every length to ensure that they do not get any 'ammunition' to bring me down. So I need the Palaver. Our democracy needs it.

If the Palaver is killed it will send some wrong signals to the international community that our government is not media friendly. Don't be surprised if some free speech organisation reports next year that our government uses the courts to stifle the press (that is if the Palaver goes down). That's why I am appealing to Manhack and my brother on one hand and the Palaver and BQ, on the other, to resolve their dispute amicably within the shortest possible time. If and when BQ escapes payment of the heavy fines imposed on him, I hope that he will become a better journalist – a journalist who will do what his professional conscience dictates to him and not what his paymasters ask him to do. The NDC have shown clearly (by their refusal to help him out) that they do not deserve his loyalty. This a fine opportunity for BQ to behave like a man with balls of his own and become a better professional.

Excellently yours,

J. A. Fukuor [email protected] Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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