Free to speak, obliged to be responsible

S Peech File photo

Wed, 3 Aug 2016 Source: Blege, Alex

Freedom consists not doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought – Pope John Paul II

Ours is a democracy; free speech is held high in public communication. In public communication three values – freedom, equality, and order define communicators’ conduct.

Values define every aspect of our lives. We cease to live once our lives are not guided by values. Values that guide us that others have as much freedom as we do, others have equal rights as we do, and this creates a society where there is order – socially and culturally.

Over the last few weeks there’s been much hue and cry. Some three fellows, the ‘Montie Trio’ have been jailed for scandalising the courts. They made statements that sought to bring the highest court of the land into disrepute. They threatened the lives of judges sitting on a matter that is crucial to the peace and stability of this country.

This is not the first time some individual or group of persons have scandalised the courts. However, were these fellows acting on the basis of the right to free speech? Or, were they acting on the basis of the political bravado? Well, my piece does not seek to peel off the skin on an unhealed wound. My view seeks to draw attention to the fact that the stability of this country hinges on how citizens must exercise their rights and freedom responsibly.

It is true that some very influential people have made statements that smacked of disrespect for the courts, but these people have been left off the hook. It is said that, ‘give a dog a long rope and it will hang itself’ or better still as the Nigerians put it, ‘one day monkey go go market, wey im no go return’. These people will one of these days receive the shock of their lives, when they least expect it.

The judgment propelled the wearing of political spectacles and the whole matter is now coloured such that it is impossible to tell that what the three did was wrong and they must be ready to dance to the tune of the music.

Politics is becoming a basis for indulgence. This trend will lead us nowhere. It breeds indiscipline in the highest order. I am not against tempering justice with mercy but, citizens should begin to know that responsibility in exercising our rights is good for all.

Indiscipline can lead this nation to its destruction. Disrespect for institutions such as the Judiciary is nothing that must be indulged. All must frown at it.

Some people in the political class of this nation are asking the President to invoke Article 72. These people are overlooking the fact that what the men did was wrong. This move may seem proper today, contrarily, it is a process of sowing seeds of indiscipline among political communicators and bad legacy for posterity.

It is unfortunate. So, for those citizens who are not members of good standing in any political party, there will be no one to speak for them when they make statements that smack of contempt towards any of the three arms of government. In other words one can always get away with any offence once he or she belongs to a political party. Impunity at its highest, isn’t it?

Freedom has been misunderstood and abused. It’s seen as a license to satisfy our whims and caprices without considering that there is no freedom in the absence of responsibility. Yes, there is no freedom if one can’t be responsible. Kabisa!

If Salifu Maase is a trained journalist, I expected that he would have exhibited his journalistic skills the moment the statements were made by the other two. Otherwise, I am tempted to believe that he sacrificed his professional standards in the name of politics.

All of us desire that our media will promote development and stability. However, if politicians own media houses so they can promote the agenda of their political parties in one way or the other, then private media ownership in the hands of politicians needs much to be desired.

The onus lies on journalists to stand by the principles of professionalism in the course of their duties even as they work in some of these media houses. The owner of that media house will disagree with that journalist, who decides to do the right thing, but trust me, that journalist would secretly earn the respect of that politician. The media is facing criticism because media practitioners especially in the private media houses are kowtowing to their owners.

With my head above the parapet, I say that we are free to speak our mind but there is an obligation to be responsible. Responsibility is non-negotiable.

Writer's e-mail: kwameblege@hotmail.com/kw.ameselom12@gmail.com

Columnist: Blege, Alex