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Let’s be clear on this: You don't determine my camera position!

Parliament 77 Ghana's parliament

Wed, 26 Feb 2020 Source: Kwame Akuffo Anoff-Ntow, PhD

I am struggling to come to grips with the comments of Professor Mike Ocquaye, the Speaker of Parliament that journalists henceforth will be classified as unwelcome guests if they repeat the gesture of granting interviews whiles “debates” are ongoing in the Chamber of Parliament (“SONA debate: Speaker threatens to re-voke media accreditation”, Ghanaweb, 26 Feb., 2020). This was a ruling with re-spect to the Majority Leader’s expressed concern that journalists had “aban-doned” the chamber of Parliament where a “debate” of the President’s State of the Nation’s Address, SONA was ongoing and had rather granted a Member of Parliament interview outside the chamber (“Speaker summons Dean of Parliamentary Press Corps, Director of Public Affairs at Parliament”, Ghanaweb, 26 Feb., 2020). He interprets this as “allegiance to an individual MP” instead of to the entire House.

I am gladdened that the issue is not about the fact that the MP in question is a member of the opposition National Democratic Congress, NDC. In the same vein, I would have reaffirmed the Speaker and the Majority Leaders’ position if their argument was that such movements by journalists during debates disrupt parliamentary proceedings. If that is not their argument, as media reports indi-cate, then I beg to differ sharply.

I find this concern and ruling very curious, almost dangerous. I want the respect-ed Speaker and the eloquent Majority Leader to bear in mind that what they are proposing amounts to an attempt to interfere with the editorial code of journal-ists. Respectfully, it does not lie in their mouths to tell journalists who to cover, or where and how to cover any subject/event, even in the chamber.

In any case, I encourage the respected gentlemen to avert their minds to the fact that conducting interviews outside or inside the chamber is part of the coverage of proceedings. Nothing stops a journalist from soliciting an interview if s/he is persuaded a knowledgeable source can present an alternative view on a subject.

The claim that conducting an interview outside the chamber whiles the SONA “debate” was on-going amounts to not covering the “debate” is, therefore, without traction. More so when the same media reports that journalists returned to the chamber after their interviews.

More importantly, I think the larger question for the Speaker and Leader of the House to address is why journalists would rather have an interview than cover a “debate” as they argue. I wish to propose to them that it could very well be that journalists did not consider the event as a debate as they frame it, but a regurgi-tated, partisan and sterile event with only one outcome: rubber stamp all that the President had said in the address with a deafening “Yeahhhhh Yeahhhh".

So in-stead of this dangerous attempt to teleguide journalists within the chamber about their editorial focus, I think the leadership of Parliament should reflect on why journalists chose to conduct interviews rather than stay through a debate whose outcome is well known. What they did is perfectly legitimate and in consonance with best global practise: to seek alternative views on a matter with an inevitable outcome. At least that is what they think. Please don't take my word for it, just cross check.

Accra, Ghana.

26th February, 2020.

Columnist: Kwame Akuffo Anoff-Ntow, PhD