A threat to revoke the accreditation of members of the Parliamentary Press Corps who cover other events during Parliamentary proceedings has been greeted with condemnation.
Some members of the public and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have criticised Prof Mike Ocquaye’s warning to the journalists, arguing that the threat breaches the law on media freedom.
Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Sulemana Braimah, argues that telling journalists which activities they must cover amounts to censorship.
“I think that directive may border on censorship; and to some extent, deciding what the media should be covering or not be covering…is a very worrying development,” Mr Braimah told Joy News.
Another CSO, the United Press for Development Network (UPDN) has said the Speaker’s comments are “intolerant, undemocratic and unfortunate.”
Prof Mike Ocquaye on Wednesday threatened members of the Parliamentary Press Corp with sanctions if they leave the chamber to cover press conferences held by members of either side of the House while proceedings are ongoing.
The stern threat by the Speaker follows a complaint by the Majority leader Osei Kyei-Mensah Bonsu on the floor of the House.
The Majority Leader had criticised the media for not staying in the chamber when New Patriotic Party (NPP) MPs debated the State of the Nation Address (SONA), but instead attended a briefing by Ellembelle MP, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, on the SONA.
Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, backed the Majority Leader’s concerns and urged the media to be guided.
But in a reaction, private legal practitioner, Samson Anyenini, said the legislators are infringing on the dictates of the 1992 Constitution.
“This is actually a clear, overt infringement of the Constitution in many parts,” he said.
Ranking Member on the Communications Committee of Parliament, Sam George, has also described a directive by the Speaker of Parliament as an act of censorship that the media must fight against.
Meanwhile, Parliament’s public relations unit has issued a statement arguing that the Speaker’s warning was not aimed at gagging the media or stopping them from doing their work.
“Parliament recognises the critical role of the media, and the Speaker made reference to same when he spoke about the high regard with which he holds the media’s work.
“Both Leaders referred to the need for a dutiful media and the need for the media to remain in the Chamber while the house is still in session. Parliament, the Speaker, leaders and the entire membership of the house remain committed to the ideals of a free media and freedom of speech as provided for in Chapter 12 of the 1992 Constitution and will not do anything to jeopardise this,” the statement said.
Members of the Parliamentary Press Corps have scheduled a meeting today, Thursday, February 27, 2020, to discuss the Speaker’s comment.
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