We Must Not Provide Tomorrow's Tyrants With Legal Power

Sun, 6 May 2012 Source: Thompson, Kofi

To Muzzle The Ghanaian Media

By Kofi Thompson

It is extraordinary that the first thing that comes to mind, for so many members of our educated urban elites, when the Ghanaian media is used as a vehicle by some disagreeable individual or group, to say something particularly reprehensible, is to call for stronger legal powers to enable the National Media Commission (NMC) to censure 'errant' media houses and unprofessional journalists.

Is public opprobrium not sufficient in such cases? Why does it never occur to such individuals that we must never willingly provide the building blocs for tomorrow's tyrants, to stop us from speaking our minds?

How do we know that at some point in the future, stronger legal powers given to the NMC today, in all innocence, will not be exploited by a regime made up of power-drunk individuals, to muzzle the media - and by extension take away the right to freedom of expression of Ghanaians, whenever it suits them?

Far better to leave things as they are now, and put up with the few beyond-the pale-individuals in our midst, who, from time to time, abuse the right to freedom of expression in our country, and say outrageous things in the print and electronic media, than help the powerful few in society, who, for reasons best known to themselves, hate the fact that ordinary Ghanaians can speak their minds freely, and are always looking for ways to deny them that basic human right.

It is preferable for Ghana to be a liberal African society, in which all Ghanaians - including even those who say abominable and despicable things that injure the sensibilities of decent people - can always speak their minds freely, than help provide our present-day oligarchs, and tomorrow's tyrants, with the legal power to stop us from either criticising, questioning or exposing them, whenever that needs to be done, for the common good.

Let us ignore those who, at the least excuse, in a nation in which corruption is endemic, and many of the most powerful individuals - including some of those who rule us - often would rather what they do or don't do, on a daily basis, is not discussed openly, in both the traditional media and the social media online.

The last thing we ought to be thinking about is to imperil the right to freedom of expression in Ghana, and deny the right of Ghanaians to speak their minds freely, without fear of being persecuted by powerful people for doing so.

We must not provide tomorrow's tyrants, who might seek to enslave us, with the legal power to muzzle the Ghanaian media. Ever. A word to the wise...

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Columnist: Thompson, Kofi