GJA condemns threat against Parliamentary Press Corps
Accra, Feb. 27, GNA – The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has condemned comments attributed to the leadership of Parliament threatening to revoke accreditation of the Parliamentary Press Corps if they ignored proceedings in the House to cover other events organised by individual Parliamentary members.
“We recognise and respect Parliament’s powers to regulate coverage of proceedings of the House for purposes of security, order and space. The GJA, however, wishes to state that journalists cannot be denied accreditation for “arbitrary or content-based criteria”, a statement signed and copied to the Ghana News Agency by Mr Roland Affail Monney, President of the GJA said.
In the instant case, the statement said, the leadership of Parliament had a cause to chastise the Parliamentary Press Corps and further threaten to revoke their accreditation if they did not focus on covering official sittings of the House.
According to the statement, the Speaker of Parliament was on record to have said “You are here as guests by my permission because of the importance this House attaches to your profession. Any such deviation would make you an unwelcome guests and your welcome would be duly withdrawn.”
This threat was in response to a decision by some members of the Parliamentary Press Corps to cover a news conference by Minority Spokesperson on Mines and Energy, Mr Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, on the state of Ghana’s power sector while proceedings were ongoing in the Chamber, the statement said.
The GJA, considered the Speaker’s threat unfortunate and an affront to media freedom and free speech.
“Parliament is the House of the people. And so, in the public interest, journalists’ access to the House cannot be deemed as a privilege but a necessity to enable them report to the people what their elected representatives are up to – be it during official proceedings or any other activity in the House that are matters of great public interest.
“We also note that while the journalists may not have right of presence in Parliament, the presence in the House greatly enhances the righteousness of the House in respect of promoting accountability, transparency, good governance, free speech and expression by members themselves,” the statement said.
The GJA believed it was not for nothing that the nation’s forebears dedicated (Chapter 12) in the 1992 Constitution to media freedom.
Article 162(4) of the 1992 Constitution was designed to insulate the media from control or interference in the performance of their duty and Article 162(5) further mandates the media to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government (including the Legislature) to the people of Ghana without fear or favour.
The statement said: “We reiterate that the Speaker’s comments are tantamount to interfering with the editorial independence of the media. We further state that the decision as to what activity in Parliament to highlight, cover or give attention to is entirely within the purview of the various media houses.”
The leadership of the House, the statement said should rather direct Members of Parliament who are elected on behalf of the people to perform their duties and not disregard such duties and engage in activities within the precinct of Parliament while proceedings are ongoing.
The GJA gave an assurance to Parliament of its esteem respect for the august House and its Speaker.
However, it said, it would not countenance any action that attempted to take away the media’s right to inform the people and the people’s right to know.
“The GJA will not hesitate to take any and every action, including legal recourse, to vindicate and reaffirm the freedoms and independence of the media should this unhealthy threat or admonition resurface in future,” it stated.