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Opinions of Sunday, 7 November 2010

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

The Amina angle to media law

By George Sydney Abugri

The thought processes in my skull are in a state of flux today, Jomo. I have spent close to an hour staring in great perplexity at the ceiling and chewing on my thumb like a kid sucking greedily on his lollipop after Sunday school, as if there were no tomorrow and the day after that.

I tell stories for a living, see? I tell them my own way, never allowing any nose-poking, prose-tasting creature from this earth or outer space to try inhibiting my literary impulses, see? The problem today is that I have this story to tell, but the more I try to make sense out of it, the more the key pieces that build coherence just keep falling away.

My predicament has been compounded by a friend who is a judge and who says I must watch my step if I insist on spinning this rather bizarre yarn.
My dictionary says contempt means to hold something in scorn or very low esteem but this judge assures me with a malicious grin, that as surely as the sun rises and sets, he would slap a contempt charge on me if I ever commented prejudicially on a landmark criminal trial before his court.
His Lordship says any action that interferes with the course of justice would amount to contempt in the vocabulary of his hallowed bench and a virtual attack on the status and dignity of his almighty court.
He tells me most courts around the world take contempt very seriously, and have been granted great powers by the constitution to deal with offenders.
Are the courts enemies of freedom of expression? Has our constitution made earthly gods of our judges or something? No, says the big man. Judges do not consider themselves to be special but hey, the courts need to guard their dignity and that of judges as representatives of the Law.
One lawyer conversant with media law on the other hand, says that with the exception of offensive conduct in court, trials by jury and direct interference with the work of the courts, contempt can hardly be justified.
According to him the public, should have the right to know through the media, what is going on in trials before the courts, provided this is done accurately, fairly and in a manner that does not jeopardize the chances of an accused person getting a fair trial.
It is a weird tale about an alleged crime: A young lady called Amina Mohammed this week recounted on a radio station, how a bus on which she was traveling from Accra to the Savanna was waylaid at Kintampo by armed bandits who after robbing the passengers, compelled some male passengers to rape female passengers.

The driver of the bus was compelled at gun point to rape three female passengers in a row and he passed out after the third! A father on the bus, by her account, was made to rape his pre-teen daughter who was a virgin.

The fact of public discussion of sex being a taboo in our culture and the searing injury inflicted on our conscience about the alleged mass rape conspired to rob public and media discussion of the alleged incident of normal rational thinking.

I cannot talk for male baboons, dogs, cats, he-goats on and other canines and ruminants on heat, but ask the experts: The human male cannot develop and sustain an erection under great distress, fear, threat of death and in the presence of other people and rape three women in a row one after the other until he passes out!

No ruler of any land on the planet wants such a crime to happen under his administrative watch. So President Mills summons all his security chiefs for a crisis meeting and orders them to look for the alleged robbers, although he apparently believes it is all a hoax.

Police commanders along the route all the way up to Kintampo combed through their station dairies and came up with the same report: There was no entry of the alleged mass rape and robbery at any police station along the route.

Now, wait a minute. There was a report after all but it was one alleging a failed attack on the bus in question. The scene of the attack was near Ejisu in the Ashanti Region and not Kintampo which is located three worlds away.

Some reporters from Radio Gold went to the company which owns the bus and obtained the list of passengers who traveled on the bus and their phone numbers, and called some of the passengers for interviews which were broadcast live:

The driver of the said bus insisted that although his bus had indeed been fired upon by armed bandits, he managed to drive away, and reported the matter to the Ejisu Police, but staunchly denied that any forced rape of female passengers by male passengers had taken place.

His testimony was corroborated by his co-driver and other passengers who travelled on the bus on October 12, including an expatriate traveler from Belgium.

How come no one had heard a word about the alleged attack up till now? The shame, embarrassment of the alleged involuntary rapists and their victims made them swear each other to silence but she now wanted to get the sour tale off her chest.

I have a billion questions about this case but my judge friend suggests I keep them to myself for until the case has been disposed of

The police violated the constitution and Amina’s rights this week, by holding a suspect in a case of misdemeanor beyond 48 hours without bail.

The investigators I am told consider this case an unusual one with the potential to damage the nation’s international image and may have reason to believe that it was necessary to keep Amina out of contact with some people until the truth had been established. The yet to be explained strong political interest in the case is curious if you ask me.

Some have suggested that the young lady could do with expert psycho-therapeutic appraisal but there are those who insist that she is alright and her story true.

This tale is certainly far much stranger than fiction: Believe it not, while Amina was being led to detention this week, the other key witness in the case, the bus driver, driving the very same bus’ had collided headlong with an articulated truck near the very same disputed location of Kintampo, killing five people on board!

Bizarre, Jomo. Absolutely bizarre, especially if you consider the other truth, which is that highway robberies have become so commonplace that they are almost a daily occurrence.

The police have the full statistics and should be able to confirm that robbers and highway bandits have raped many of their victims.

Nothing happens in the universe without a reason, old chap and the bizarre story is probably a providential if also strange reminder to the Mills administration that is has a responsibility to protect the population more efficiently and robustly.
Email: georgeabu@hotmail.com
Website: www.sydneyabugri.com.




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