The General Secretary of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), David Agbenu, has cautioned against conflating the judgment against the Montie FM trio with an attack on the media and free speech.
“The Supreme Court did not go after the Montie three because they did something that is lawful. The charges were read to them, they contested the charges and they were finally jailed. We must be careful not to confuse that with a media attack,” he explained on Eyewitness News.
Mr. Agbenu’s comments followed the four-month sentence given the host of the ‘Pampaso’ political show on Montie FM, Salifu Maase, alias Mugabe, and the two panelists, Alistair Nelson and Godwin Ako Gunn, after they were found guilty of contempt.
The two panelists had threatened to kill judges of the Supreme Court during one of the discussions on the show.
The GJA General Secretary stated that, the trio were punished simply because they fell foul of the laws of the land and not because their freedom of free speech was being stifled.
“The laws are supposed to be obeyed by everyone. No one is above the law and we do know that when you do things that infringe the laws of the country, it is the law courts that deal with it.”
“I am not sure the law courts were dealing with them because they are media practitioners. They were dealing with them because they were in contempt of court.”
Mr. Agbanu noted that “we must be careful not to criminalise speech and we must also be reminded of the fight that the media waged to get the kind of freedom that they have.”
However, he maintained that, the Montie three “played into the hands of the Judiciary and the Judiciary exacted its pound of flesh… We shouldn’t have gotten to this position at all. It was unnecessary, it was uncalled for.”
What the judges said in their verdict
According to Citi News’ Fred Djabanor, the Presiding judge, Sophia Akuffo, reading the sentences said the two panelists wilfully attacked the Chief Justice and lowered the authority of the court by insisting that they will not accept its judgment on a controversial matter of the voter’s register.
She also said they also callously reminded the court of the gruesome murder of three High Court judges more than 30 years ago.
She pointed out that there is an element of criminality in their utterances which the Attorney-General should have noticed and acted upon.
Justice Akuffo asserted that the court is deserving of utmost respect if the country’s democracy is to be safeguarded, and that any conduct that seeks to interfere with the judiciary is an act against the community.
According to the Judge, for a very long time, the judiciary has been attacked verbally and viciously, but they remained quiet. She explained that it was not their intent to be punishing people anyhow, but they just want to use this as a caution.