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General News of Friday, 28 February 2020

Source: GNA

I can't gag the media - Speaker

Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye

The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, has called on the public not to misinterpret his caution to the media in parliament to mean an attempt to stifle media freedom.

According to him, the media are most welcomed as guests of the House and would do everything to assist them to discharge their duties professionally.

Prof Oquaye has come under heavy criticism for his directive to the media in Parliament to have their accreditation revoked when majority of them abandoned coverage of proceedings in the chamber on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 during the debate on President Akufo-Addo’s 2020 State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The journalists were rather conducting interviews with some Minority Members of Parliament (MPs), following the decision by the Minority to abstain from the debate on the SONA in line with a previous walkout staged on the day the President was about to deliver the message on the SONA.

The media later returned after their interviews with the Minority’s MPs.

Prof Oquaye cautioned the media not to abandon the plenary of parliament for some other work outside the chamber at any given time whether from the Minority or Majority side.

“Our democracy is young, let us learn and act responsibly ….I personally have supported media freedom since 1967, when my first article appeared in the Ghanaian Times, and I have consistently stood by that,” Oqauye said.

According to him, no organisation whether of lawyers or doctors were perfect and as such must be streamlined and critiqued to enable the country to develop.

Prof Oquaye further stated that under his leadership, and with the cooperation of both the Majority and Minority Leadership, the Parliament of Ghana was revising its rules to strengthen the media to do its work and even cover Committee meetings.

He maintained that Parliament would continue to support the media, but they have the right to help and direct them to develop.

“We are for them, but they are our children, we must also help them and direct them to develop, that is the national pledge. No group people are beyond criticism,” he said.

He also charged the media to report facts accurately and not skew their reports to any side of the House.

Mr Haruna Iddrisu, the Minority Leader, assured the media that Parliament would continue to uphold the rights to free expression guaranteed and protected under the 1992 constitution.

He said parliament as an institution was the citadel of democracy and the media remained the top ally if the nation wanted to deepen transparency and accountability.

He said Parliament would not support any individual or institution that wanted to limit the frontiers of democracy.

Mr Kwesi Ameyaw Cheremeh, Majority Chief Whip, expressed delight for the clarification made by Professor Oquaye over the issue, saying that no malice or bad motive was intended on his part.

He said everybody including; MPs and the media had to live up to their responsibility, saying when they fail in their duties, they would be criticised.

“I don’t believe the media is above reproach, so when they err and their attention is drawn to a wrong doing or an omission on their part, they got to also take it in good faith,” he added.

Earlier, in the day the Leadership of the House and the Public Affairs Department of Parliament engaged members of the PPC in a tete-a-tete over the directive of the Speaker on the abandonment of the Chamber for other duties in the House

The Majority Leaders, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the caution from the Speaker was not a threat, but an advice.

He explained that every institution had rules and regulations that must be adhered to and therefore the input from the Speaker to journalists invited by the House was not out of place.

The Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu said the Speaker’s caution should not be misinterpreted to mean a threat, adding that the media would be allowed to work freely in the house without restriction.