By Kofi Amoabin, Accra.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday gagged Mr. Sammy Awuku, deputy director of communications for the New Patriotic Party, and plans to censor speech that reflects negatively on the court.
According to the justices, the court has warned the public and media to restrain from comments or statements that reflect negatively on the court or heighten the tension in the nation regarding the challenge on the Dec 2012 elections.
Mr. Awuku was barred from the courtroom. On Monday, Justice William Atuguba, the presiding judge of the nine-member panel, announced that the final line has been drawn and the court will start imposing sanctions. However, it remains to be seen if this attempt to manage speech on a landmark case will be successful. Freedom of speech is enshrined in Ghana’s constitution and the court cannot expect all Ghanaians to have a favorable opinion about the policies, performance, and decisions of the Court. The attempt to control speech could backfire and promote the concerns that prompted the Court to institute its gagging orders.
Justice William Atuguba said that he wants Ghanaians to have a good life and not promote chaos. A good life is achieved when people can freely express their opinions, good or bad, about the activities of their government. The Court cannot expect all Ghanaians to give the Court very high marks in the way this challenge to the presidential elections is progressing.
Ghanaians are concerned that this case could go on for the next few years and would like the Court to double its steps. Unless a final decision is forthcoming, tensions could worsen in Ghana.
For example, one radio broadcasts said that a decision in favor of the petitioners will lead to civil unrest in Ghana.
In Court, Mr. Sammy Awuku said that on the same program that he mentioned that this Court has favored the respondents in its decisions, a member of the NDC mentioned that the lawsuit will amount to naught.
Strong opinions have been expressed by the supporters of the petitioners and respondents. Even in court, one of the lawyers for the respondents said a decision in favor of the petitioners would be the most unfair decision by the Supreme Court. The Court should consider censorship carefully so it does not appear it is selectively punishing members of the opposition parties or supporters of the petitioners. Justice Atuguba brought to court an opposition newspaper, Daily Guide, and read in court the front page “ATUGUBA GOES WILD.”
Yesterday, some people expressed resentments when two people speak on a forum and only one person is censored.
The maxim “Justice delayed is justice denied,” is showing in the comments and opinions expressed by Ghanaians. After months of hearings, decisions and sittings, Ghanaians are anxious and want to know who was legitimately elected president in the last election. This Court is the only source for a solution.
By: Kofi Amoabin, DePaul University, Graduate School of Communications, Chicago, IL