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General News of Friday, 28 February 2020

Source: Daily Guide Network

Parliament cools down media after speaker’s fiat

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The leadership of both the Majority and the Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday met with members of the Parliamentary Press Corps to assure them that they are indispensable part of the work of Parliament and that the leadership would not do anything to gag them.

The emergency meeting was arranged by the Public Affairs Department of Parliament after the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye, had warned journalists covering parliamentary proceedings that they would be asked not to cover the House if they left the chamber to conduct interviews while proceedings on the floor were going on.

The Speaker issued the warning following a complaint by the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, on Wednesday that journalists who were supposed to stay in the chamber to cover proceedings had abandoned the debate on the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) and gone to cover a press briefing by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Ellembelle, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, to counter what the President said in the oil industry during the SONA.

The Speaker said journalists covering Parliament were his ‘guests’ and that if they did not listen to his directive to always be in the chamber to cover proceedings on the floor, then he would be compelled to ‘sack’ them.

However, the directive from the Speaker has since rekindled debate over press freedom and some MPs from both the Majority and the Minority met with parliamentary correspondents yesterday to do some sort of ‘damage control’.

The Majority Leader said that the directive by the Speaker must not be misconstrued to mean ‘gagging of the press’ because it was not a ruling by the Speaker but a piece of ‘advice’.

According to the Majority Leader, Parliament, as an institution, respects their roles and independence defined by the Constitution.

He assured the journalists that Parliament would continue to offer whatever support they needed in covering the House effectively and professionally, and that what Parliament demands of them is to always respect the rules of engagement as they cover the House.

The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, for his part, said the role of the media in promoting parliamentary democracy could not be overemphasized, stressing that Parliament, which is an independent arm of government, would always respect the media which has its independence consolidated in the 1992 Constitution.

Already, the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has issued a statement condemning the leadership of Parliament for threatening to revoke the accreditation of journalists, saying although it has deep respect for the august House and the Right Honourable Speaker in particular, 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.

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