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General News of Friday, 28 February 2020

Source: GNA

NMC boss wades into parliament, media controversy

Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh, Chairman of the National Media Commission Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh, Chairman of the National Media Commission

Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh, the Chairman of the National Media Commission, Thursday, urged Parliament and the Media to understand their unique critical roles in advancing national growth and work in a mutually cooperative manner in the supreme interest of citizens.

He described the incident in which the Speaker threatened to withdraw the privileges of journalists who would abandon the proceedings in the Chamber for coverage of events outside it as an “unfortunate development”, which could have been avoided.

Speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency over the incident, the NMC Chairman, who is both a journalist and a lawyer, said it was unhelpful to the public’s interest for the journalists to leave the Chamber en masse; while members were debating the President’s Message on the State of the Nation - a constitutionally mandated activity.

“If something had happened in the Chamber in the process, how would the journalists have covered it?” he asked.

However, if the media had done anything wrong, the solution, he said, it was not for the Speaker to issue a threat, but to engage the media in a respectful manner to explain issues for them to understand.

In as much as Parliament had the authority and power to dismiss people from the Chamber, both Parliament and citizens would lose out when journalists are not present to cover proceedings.

He added that, replacing the present crop of journalists with fresh ones would also not inure to the benefit of either the citizens or Parliament because it was better to use knowledgeable reporters who had grown to understand the work and regulations of the House.

Mr Ayeboafoh said the Constitution recognised the roles of the two - Parliament and the media, and no institution could deprive journalists of their discretionary right of what to cover or publish.

The media has a responsibility to cover Parliament in the public interest, especially when it relates to the SONA, which the Constitution mandates the President, to deliver to Parliament.

“The issue is not about who wields what power but of mutual respect and understanding for cooperation; the media should not treat Parliament with contempt and Parliament should not treat the media with impunity,” Mr Ayeboafoh said.

On Wednesday, the Majority Leader, Osei-Kyei Mensah Bonsu, complained on the Floor of the House that members of the Press Corps did not cover the debate on the SONA on Tuesday, February 26, because they left the Chamber to cover a press conference organised by Mr Armah Kofi Buah, the MP for Ellembelle, a practice he did not endorse.

His position was endorsed by Minority leader Haruna Iddrisu.

This was followed by the Speaker’s remarks on the importance of the work of the media and the need for them to discharge their duties responsibly; with the threat to make them unwelcome guests to the Chamber should the practice continue.

The Speaker’s remarks have since attracted public criticisms and condemnation with some likening to an attempt to gag the media.

The Speaker on Thursday, explained his position to the House, saying he had no intention to obstruct press freedom but he only offered a friendly advice.

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