I am not a lawyer. I am not in law school yet. So I will stay of the law, and hopefully in the process avoid receiving a friendly invite to appear before the highest court of the land.
Having gotten this out of the way shall we see if I can make a little bit of sense on what is going on? First of all I think that we have over the past few years abused our Freedom of Expression too much in this country. As often as many of us pretend to be know the law and our rights under the Fourth Republican constitution, the majority of us do not know jack. As a matter of fact some lawyers do not even understand some of the basic laws of our land. Yes, I said it. Just as we all had classmates whose ‘heads were dead’, or better still were plain dumb, it is the same we have for lawyers, and journalists and editors.
I won’t attempt to define what contempt is and the extent to which we can or cannot discuss matters that are being discussed in court or to attempt reviewing the powers of the Justices of the Supreme Court. I do know however that there is too much rubbish being spewed by political party activists on air. I did say elsewhere that we should not make heroes of the two chaps who got jailed last Tuesday. They are villains in my opinion and let no one speak about the court’s actions as infringing on freedom of speech. That freedom comes with responsibility. If you can’t be responsible then you don’t deserve that freedom. I still stand by it.
I have read Ace Ankomah and some other lawyers express the concern why we may need some legislation on what constitute contempt and all. That may be a fair point but I am not knowledgeable enough to contribute to that discussion. Political parties’ ‘communicators’, especially those in the NDC and NPP, seem to have redesigned what constitutes political communication and key among the ingredients to this new definition is who is able to spew the most rubbish. Very often the public is fed with concocted facts being thrown about by parties to suit their political wet dreams without any attempt whatsoever to put Ghana ahead of such dialogue. All that matters to these guys is to shout themselves hoarse regardless of the implications for the country. It is unthinkable when one thinks of the comments that dude called Stephen Atubiga made. Seriously, which sane person will speak like that and have the balls to go and on like he did? There have been so many of such silly remarks from across board and it hurts me that nothing had been done until now.
The Ghana Journalist Association, we all know has been a toothless bulldog from inception. The Media Commission seems to be equally powerless in maintaining sanity in our media space and I am worried because we are yet to see the worse of the media. Yes, we repelled the Criminal Libel Law but we did not repel our ability to think and be rational in our utterances. Since that repel there have been several court rulings against these newspapers and even some have been forced to close down. To me though, the worse culprits are the radio stations.
The role radio played in the sad and despicable Rwandan civil war is there for all to read and see. We have a situation where radio stations seem to believe that the higher the frequency of harsh, loud rhetoric from loudmouth, and often empty-headed party folks, the higher their ratings. You clearly hear and sometimes see radio hosts clearly encouraging some of these nonsense. Radio Gold and Oman FM seem to have positioned themselves as the worse culprits from either end of the political divide and they do have a lot of following too. I look forward to concrete sanctions being taken against some of these stations. Our radio stations should be called to order. Most of them do not seem to give a hoot what they sacrifice for ratings and for profit and for their biased political leanings.
Let’s not start talking about suppression of press freedom here because when the media fails to be responsible they can run the entire country down and when that happens there will be no freedom of any kind. We cannot take this freedom for granted. We have taken it for granted for far too long and if it takes the Supreme Court to do what the NMC and GJA have failed to do, then so be it. It is also about time we brought the Broadcasting Law to life. It has taken too long to spring to life and the empty political rhetoric does not help anyone.