28 July 2016
Ghana’s Supreme Court sentenced two panelists on a political talk show on an Accra-based radio station to four months imprisonment each on Wednesday for contempt.
Alistair Nelson and Godwin Ako Gunn, the panelists, and Salifu Maase, alias Mugabe, the host of the programme on Montie FM, were also fined 1.3 dollars (about N500) each, or would serve additional one month in jail.
They are to pay the fine by the close of work on Thursday.
The court, presided over by Justice Sophia Akuffo, found them guilty of scandalising the court, defying and lowering the authority of the court and bringing it into disrepute.
The panelists issued death threats to judges of the Supreme Court while they were hearing the case brought before it by some opposition members.
The opposition members had urged the court to delete the names of those who registered as voters using the National Health Insurance Scheme cards.
The owners of the pro-government Montie FM were also found guilty of contempt and fined while the company which owns the frequency was fined 30,000 Ghana cedis.
All the persons found guilty by the court apologised and their lawyers pleaded for mercy.
The court insisted that the media and the radio panelists in particular must learn valuable lessons from the judgment and stop unnecessary attacks on the courts and on judges.
Justice Akuffo said that the panelists callously reminded the court of the gruesome murder of three High Court judges and an army officer in 1992.
She said that the court deserved utmost respect if the country’s democracy was to be safeguarded.
The judge also observed that any conduct that sought to interfere with the judiciary was an act against the community and noted that the owners of the radio station appeared to have little or no interest in what transpired on their radio station.
It expressed hope that every media house owner would henceforth take keen interest in what is broadcast on their radio station.
In his reaction, Dave Agbenu, General Secretary, Ghana Journalists Association, described the jail term as “a sad day for media practice in Ghana.’’
An Accra-based radio station, Starr FM, quoted him as saying: “it shouldn’t have come to this, it shouldn’t have been here at all, it’s unnecessary.
“We need deterrent but this is not the kind of deterrent we should use to cure the mischief that we intend to cure,” Agbenu said.