The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has accused the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Oquaye, of trying to interfere with free press after his recent threats to members of the Parliamentary Press corps.
The GJA in a statement described the threats as unfortunate and “an affront to media freedom and free speech.”
This is after Prof. Oquaye, on Wednesday, summoned the Dean of the Parliamentary Press Corps and the Director of Public Affairs of Parliament, following a complaint from the Majority Leader of the House.
He complained that journalists abandoned proceedings in the House to cover a press briefing by the Member of Parliament for Ellembele.
The Association, in its criticism, also said the Speaker’s comments were “tantamount to interfering in the editorial independence of the media.”
It added that it will “not countenance any action that attempts to take away the media’s right to inform the people’s right to know.”
“We further state that the decision as to what activity in Parliament to highlight, cover or give attention to is entirely within the purview of the various media houses.”
The statement further indicated the resolve of the GJA to defend the press corps in court.
“The GJA will not hesitate to take any and every action, including legal recourse, to vindicate and reaffirm the freedoms and independence of the media should this unhealthy threat or admonition resurface in future.”
Speaker not seeking to gag media
Parliament in a statement released on Wednesday clarified that the Speaker’s decision was not aimed at stopping the media from doing their work.
“Parliament has noted media reports purporting that the Speaker of Parliament is seeking to gag the media. The Office would like to put on record that at no time either in his capacity as Speaker or in his personal capacity has Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye sought to prevent the media from doing its work. Parliament recognises the critical role of the media and the Speaker made reference to the same when he spoke about the high regard with which he holds the media’s work.”
The Speaker reiterated today [Thursday] that he was not seeking to gag the media.
“In view of a few comments that we all know of and some statements that have been made by about my directions yesterday. I want to reiterate that I spoke to both sides of the House and I did say so categorically.
“I reminded that the media are most welcome as guests of this humble House and we will do everything to assist them in the performance of this meeting and we will continue to do so.”
I don’t owe journalists an apology – Majority Leader
Meanwhile, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has said he is not obliged to apologise for reporting the perceived misconduct of journalists to the Speaker of Parliament.
“I am really flabbergasted by this attitude. I have taken pain to explain what really transpired and for you to tell me the rules of the game that we all subscribe to, my own thinking is that you are a bit going out of bounds. As I said the Minority Leader added his own words to it. The Speaker encapsulated it. Then you are saying that for what we have done we owe you an apology, respectfully I do not,” said the Majority Leader.