Managing Editor of the Daily Dispatch Newspaper and pollster, Ben Ephson has condemned members of the Parliamentary Press Corps for ‘ignoring’ their duty to stay through proceedings and chase after Minority Members of Parliament who gave up their right to stay and debate President Akufo-Addo’s State of the Nation Address.
According to him, the outburst of the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, in which he threatened to revoke the accreditation of parliamentary correspondents over the issue was a step ‘in the right direction’.
“I think that it was in the right direction. You see, if you are debating the President’s state of the nations address, you can even make libellous statements on the Parliamentary floor and they will ask you to withdraw. I think it is wrong for the Parliamentary press corps to leave the business of Parliament and go and talk to somebody who has abstained from the right to make his comments in the chamber,” he said.
His comment is a diversion from views of a large section of the public who believe the Speaker’s action is a way of stifling the freedom of the press as guaranteed by the Constitution.
The media left the House on Tuesday, February 25, to attend to Members of the Minority who had declared an intention to stay clear of anything relating to the debate, after walking out of the President’s presentation.
Rt Hon. Aaron Mike Oquaye, a day after the incident lambasted journalists for leaving the House while the one-sided debate of President Akufo-Addo’s SONA was ongoing and directed that no journalist should leave the House while proceedings are ongoing going forward.
This action has sparked commentary from both the Majority and the Minority MPs who assert that the Speaker’s directive is not an attempt to gag the media as is being speculated.
Speaking on Starr Fm, Thursday, the Daily Dispatch Managing Editor insisted that the Speaker’s directive will in a way curb the attitude of Parliamentarians resorting to a boycott as a means to register their displeasure over certain issues.
“That I think the Parliamentary press corps was wrong. If the Parliament was on break or they had finished, then they could have covered the minority’s views but I think that they are wrong. The Minority threw away their right to debate and so why I agree with the Speaker is that this will put a stop to this issue of boycotting Parliament. If you want your views heard, stay in Parliament, if not, wait till Parliament is over,” he added.
Meanwhile, a private legal practitioner, Francis-Xavier Sosu maintains that the Speaker’s action is ‘dangerous’ and a ‘threat to media freedom’, arguing that this will threaten the rights of Ghanaians to know ‘everything that happens in and around parliament.
He argues that since the media is the eye of the public in the legislative House, any attempt to restrict what they focus their attention on will prevent constituents from knowing what their representatives are up to in Parliament.
Read Francis-Xavier Sosu’s comments below: