The Chief Justice, Kwasi Anin Yeboah, has appealed to media practitioners in the country to exercise circumspection in their commentaries on judges.
His appeal came a day ahead of the election petition verdict and followed a caution by the Judicial Service to the media.
A Supreme Court Judge, Yonny Kulendi, who spoke on behalf of the Chief Justice, noted that the judges are open for criticism but would not accept insults.
While admitting that the judiciary is a human institution and was fallible, he was quick to add that it would be inappropriate for media houses to use their outlets as channels to abuse adjudicators.
“The Chief Justice says I should tell you that ‘as trustees of the people power of justice, we are willing and happy to be criticized. Criticize us as violently as you can, but for Christ’s sake, don’t insult us. Don’t berate us, don’t speak hatred and malign us.
“Don’t [insult us] because, like yourselves and the work that you do and the heart that you bring to bear on it, it is a similar responsibility and consciousness that judges use to embrace their work,” he said at a joint press conference organized by the Judicial Service and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) on Wednesday, March 3, 2021,
The joint media briefing came after a stand-off between the Ghana Journalists Association and the Judicial Service.
Lawyers of the Judicial Service of Ghana demanded that all stories deemed “hateful, and incendiary” against Justices of the Supreme Court be pulled down from their online platforms.
But leaders of GJA vehemently opposed the order describing it as scandalous and a way of gagging the media.
Explaining further, Justice Kulendi said the Judiciary is not seeking to silence the media but to urge them to be circumspect in the information it churns out.
“You’ll have to take this phase of the responsibility very seriously. It is as important as the role you have performed in transmitting the proceedings worldwide because at the end of the day the Ghanaian people own the process.
“So it is important that they understand what went on and when the judges speak irrespective of our preferences, our likes and dislikes by the rules of engagement the referee blows the whistle and the lots fall where they fall. And so let’s be constructive, let’s be proactive,” he said.
Highlighting the dilemma judges go through to pronounce a judgment, Mr. Kulendi called on the citizenry to appreciate their efforts in adjudicating issues.
“As a lawyer, I thought I knew judges; I spent my whole life in these buildings and I thought I understood it all. But in the transition I have made, I have come to appreciate the complexities, difficulties, and challenges of being a judge.
“And sometimes the sleeplessness of going through in making sure that you can take a decision that you live within your conscience and that you are true to your own.
“And so, by all means, criticize us because you are the owners of the process, we are just trustees and agents. But let’s be circumspect about vile improper, unfortunate language.”
He, however, added that the judicial service was available to assist the media with the necessary materials to aid in reporting accurately on matters concerning the ongoing election petition.
Exude professionalism in election petition verdict
At the same platform, GJA President, Roland Affail Monney, called for non-sensational and non-partisan reportage on the expected election petition ruling.
“We are praying that there will be nothing [tragic] about tomorrow’s coverage of the judgement of the Supreme Court case. We want you to enhance the coverage of the hearings,” he appealed.
Meanwhile, the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) has called for a cordial relationship between the media and judiciary.
Its Executive Secretary, Gloria Hiadzi believes this is a way to ensure nation-building.
“Let us not see each other as people from distant poles but rather work together to achieve a common end,” she said.
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