A Senior Lecturer of the Ghana School of Law, Opoku Agyemang, has called for a critical analysis of contempt of court and freedom of speech.
According to him, while the two are different in some ways, the exercise of a court's powers in contempt cases could affect free speech.
He was speaking on TV3’s news analysis programme, Headlines, on Saturday, July 6, 2013.
He described contempt as a ghost of “our common system”.
“It can be exercised as an inherent power of the court,” he noted.
He cited two scenarios of contempt saying there is that in court and that out of court, explaining that those who keep talking when there is an ‘Order in Court’ from the clerk can be cited for contempt.
In explaining contempt out of court, Mr Opoku Agyemang said it hinges on how transparent the administrators of justice are.
He likened it to respect, which should be earned and not commanded, he says. “We must do it in a forceful but respectable manner,” he said of cracking the whip on out-of-court contemnors.
He also indicated that it should be exercised in a way that will not infringe on citizens’ rights to freedom of expression, though he conceded: “There is no absolute freedom anywhere”.
Last Tuesday, an activist of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), Stephen Atubiga, and Ken Kuranchie, Managing Editor of the Daily Searchlight, were sentenced to a total of thirteen days in prison for contemptuous comments.
Their sentencing by the Supreme Court has triggered debates as to the line between freedom of expression and contempt of court.
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