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Opinions of Thursday, 4 July 2013

Columnist: Acolatse, Charles K.

Am I in Contempt? I hope not

I have noted with concern the form one of the recent contempt hearings took, and its implications for indirect contempt precedence. For the avoidance of doubt, I write not in defense of the statements the gentlemen made, however offensive, insulting, and incendiary they may be, but rather to express worry with regards to the procedure and the mode of the contempt hearing.

The right to free speech is not absolute, and whoever is found to have gone beyond the bounds of what have been guaranteed by the constitution must be made to face the consequences. But such a finding should be made through the proper procedures. In as much as the statements made by Mr. Kuranchie may be offensive, we should be mindful that language, however offensive might be protected speech. Free speech jurisprudence requires that such a determination be made on a case-by-case basis, implying a fair trial to determine whether such an offensive language is that which goes beyond the bounds of what is guaranteed and protected by the constitution, and that such a statement undermines the administration of justice.

I do not have a problem with the end results, but in law process matter. As one of the Justices insinuated, the matter should have been referred to the Attorney General (AG) for further action when Mr. Kuranchie sought to offer an explanation for his article. By referring the matter to the AG, Ken Kuranchie would have had his day in Court, where the determination of contempt would have made by a neutral Judge. At that forum, Mr. Kuranchie would have had the opportunity to state his defense and a proper trial held. Perhaps, the neutral Judge would have reached the same conclusion as the Court did. But because that did not happen, many are those who see the hearing as unfair. After all a determination of contempt could not be made based on the face of his reportage, vis a vis the explanation of what he sought to achieve by his article, and hence he could not be summarily committed for contempt and ‘punished.’

To the extent that a possible finding of contempt implicates the constitutional rights to free speech and liberty, care must be taken not to set a bad precedent, which may go against the very constitution and its principles which the Court is there to protect. But for the perceived lack of due process, this would have been a good example for those who say whatever they want with impunity about out Courts.

In conclusion, we cannot regulate the moral decadence in the Ghanaian society by laws alone. It’s about time civil society and traditional rulers took part in instilling in our youth what it means to be respectful, not only to our elders but also to our peers. Our political leaders also have a role to play in this respect. The culture of impunity started with our political leaders, who feel entitled and use all kinds of foul language to demand what they think is due them. What happened to decency, and decent politicians like the late Baah Wiredu and the Austin Gameys? Political leadership should call their followers to order because I know for a fact that decent politicians exist in both of the major political parties. We only have one Ghana. Lets be respectful of each other. We can agree to disagree without being insulting.

Long live Ghana!


Charles Acolatse, MSW, Esq.
Managing/Principal Attorney
Acolatse Law Firm, LLC.
Atlanta Ga, USA
www.acolatselaw.com