The Supreme Court and Montie FM
The Supreme Court has sentenced the Montie FM panelists and their host, Mugabe to jail terms for:
-- Scandalizing the court
-- Defying and lowering the authority of the court
-- Bringing the court into disrepute
In addition, it has convicted a Director of NBC, the owners of Montie FM.
Now, I am on record as against the insults, threats and violence in our politics. I have called for a cleaning of our airways. I was one of the students who protested the 1982 murders and got dismissed for that.
However, I am disturbed by how this incident was handled.
Indeed, I am persuaded that the Supreme Court's handling of this case has brought it more disrepute than what was said on Montie FM.
Impartiality is a central tenet of impartial justice.
Regardless of how one feels about the Montie panelists and the others, the judges of the Supreme Court were not impartial in this case.
By acting as prosecutors and judges in a case involving threats to their lives, they dealt a big blow to impartial justice in our country. Nobody would accept that a judge can sit on a case involving a threat to his wife or father.
And they can sit in judgment of threats to their own lives?
Justice Sophia Akufo was right that, "There is an element of criminality in their utterances which the Attorney-General should have noticed and acted upon." If this is the case, can the Supreme Court now assume the prosecutorial powers of the Attorney-General?
The other aspect of this case that should bother all of us is the breadth of its reach.
Can the host of a program be held to account for the opinions of his guests? If this is indeed the case, no host of any program is safe.
Furthermore, in a nation that prides itself on the freedom of its press, can the Director of a company be held liable for what a guest or even the host says on a program on the network of his company?
My next point is how graphically this brings home the inconsistency in the enforcement of our laws. Others, who are more powerful have issued bigger threats in our politics and had no actions taken against them, including MP's, flagbearers and Presidents.
If we wanted to set examples, why not them?
Is a threat against judges any more ominous than a threat against an entire tribe or the public at large? While on the issue of the reputation of the court, why did they not deal with those who accused them of bribery in the election petition case? Why did they not, in defense of their reputation, deal with the judges who were caught taking bribes?
Next, I was disappointed by the level of advocacy provided by Counsel for the accused.
He never raised the question of whether the threats were backed by the knowledge and resources sufficient to execute them. He never raised the question of conflict of interest involved in Judges sitting in judgment of those accused of threatening them.
The GJA response was disappointing.
They should have challenged the dangerous idea inherent in the court's decision that the host of a programme and the owners of a station can be held accountable for the opinions of their guests.
That notion is inconsistent with free speech and the protections for journalists inherent in our constitution.
We must not destroy freedom of the press in pursuit of legitimate protections for our judges.
Finally, the President and Parliament must sit up.
The President must be asking the A-G why nothing was done.
Parliament, as part of its Executive oversight role, must be asking the A-G why nothing was done. That would be leadership.