The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, on Thursday expressed his long-standing commitment to media freedom in Ghana, a reason for which he said he will do everything to ensure that press freedom is preserved.
He said since 1967 he had personally supported media freedom and contributed to publishing articles that helped to liberate the press during the culture of silence in the country.
He recounted how he assisted the late Presidential candidate of New Patriotic Party (NPP), Professor Adu Boahene, to pen down an article on press freedom that was published in the Ghanaian Times in 1967.
“I say with pride that the historic lecture that was given broke culture of silence and I assisted the late Prof Adu Boahene in writing it and it helped liberate the media and I am not about to change my stance now,” he said.
We are for the media
Addressing Parliament before the start of debate on the President’s State of the Nation Address on Thursday, Prof. Oquaye therefore assured that Parliament would do everything to develop and strengthen the capacity of the members of the Parliamentary Press Corp to enable them to perform their duties professionally.
“Under my leadership, and with the cooperation of the Minority Leader and the Majority Leader, Parliament is revising its rules to allow the media to be stronger in covering business in Parliament and committee meetings as a whole.
“We are for them but they are our children. We must also help them and direct them to develop and that is a national duty,” he stated.
Prior to the commencement of the debate on the President’s State of the Nation Address in Parliament last Wednesday (Feb 26), the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, drew the attention of the Speaker to an occurrence in the House on February 25, 2020.
He told the Speaker that the media withdrew from the coverage of the plenary proceedings of the House to attend to a private briefing session by an individual legislator, failing to cover the proceedings of the House.
Addressing the concerns raised, the Speaker cautioned the media to be circumspect and place the interest of the House above that of individual parliamentarians.
Reminding the media that they were guests in the House who had been permitted and accredited by the Speaker, any deviation from carrying out their responsibility in covering the proceedings of the House could lead to they (press) having their accreditation withdrawn and becoming unwelcome guests.
Not beyond criticism
However explaining the position of the directive he issued on Wednesday, Prof. Oquaye stated that no group of people was beyond criticism and therefore urged the press to carry out their reportage professionally.
“Facts are sacred, comments are free but report facts accurately,” he said.
He also reminded the press that they were most welcome as guests of the Parliament and that the House would consistently do everything to assist them in the performance of their duty.
He, however, reiterated that while the plenary, the business of the House, was ongoing media should not leave the House to attend to other activities.
“While the plenary, the business of the Honourable House, is ongoing our distinguished media people should not go outside the Chamber to cover other activities while Parliament, the sovereign body of the people, is actually ongoing,” he said.
Prof. Oquaye recounted that as Ghanaians if any respectable chief in any part of Ghana invited the media to cover an event at the palace, it would be a sign of disrespect for the media to abandon the purpose for which they were invited to the palace and attend to some other business outside.
“Our democracy is young and let us learn and act responsibly to help develop it. Everyone who has been brought up in Ghana knows that such conduct in a chief’s house will not be proper. So will it not be proper in the House of Parliament,” he said.