The Judicial Service has served notice to media houses in the country that it will have its way with them in court if they do not delete unflattering stories about judges hearing the 2020 election petition from their platforms.
All media houses in Ghana are to sift through their repertoire of stories with a fine-tooth comb, discover and wipe out all those that “incite hate” and are couched in “incendiary language” against their Lordships.
“We must notify you, and we hereby do, that should you fail to heed our client’s demand as specified in paragraph 14 above, we have our client’s instructions to take appropriate action to ensure that you do not abuse the right to free speech by deploying and/or permitting your platform to be deployed in a manner that not only threatens our constitutional order and democracy, but obviously, adversely interferes with the due administration of justice and also, brings it, into disrepute,” the judicial service threatened.
It was addressed to, “all media houses,” through Sory@Law, the Law Chamber hired by the Judicial Service for the mission.
Interestingly, the open-ended warning does not particularize any specific stories as the source of worry but insisted on the opaque order to media houses to remove all supposed, “incendiary” stories against justices hearing the 2020 election petition.
The threat by the third arm of government against the fourth estate of the realm is a historic new in the growing terror that the judiciary is becoming towards the Ghanaian populace and the media.
No time in Ghana’s history had such a blanket threat been issued by the judiciary to the media.
In the past, where the Judiciary had felt slighted by arguably its closest ally, a more diligent and proactive Judicial Service had organized educational programs, including workshops, to refresh reporters’ aptitude in court reportage.
And the notice from the judiciary demanding an expungement of all stories carrying incendiary language carried an incendiary in itself when it sought to describe journalists and the general public as ill-educated.
“…Where the population consists largely of uneducated or not very well-informed people, it is necessary to take a stricter view of what criticism may be allowed of the justice system, the reason being that although the administration of justice must suffer the respectful though outspoken [not inciteful, hateful or spiteful] comments of ordinary men, it must not be adversely interfered with and/or brought into dispute.”
Two of the country’s biggest media stables, the Multimedia Group, with flagship radio station, Joy FM, and the Despite Group, with its flagship, Peace FM, were specifically copied, even though the official “edict” from the Judicial Service was to all media houses. It is not known why.
If the Judiciary succeeds in bullying the media into silence, it would be the second time it has been successful in the past month to suppress free expression in the country.
The first time was after a member of the Legislature, Hon. Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, was forced to recant on unequivocal allegations he had earlier made that a Supreme Court judge had tried to bribe an MP to vote for a Speaker of Parliament Candidate.