BY Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai

mediaJournalists being members of the fourth estate of the realm must know by that they are currently facing herculean tasks in their job. Their roles have been to keep government and public office holders on their toes. Over the years especially in the past 20 years (since the coming into being of the 1992 constitution) journalists have lived up to expectation by educating, informing and entertaining the people of Ghana. Of late a large section of people of all ages rely on news in electronic and print media for current ongoing events in Ghana with the youth seen with their ear pieces glued to their ears. However as expected some journalists have stepped on the toes of some personalities such as our current and former presidents? ministers and district chief executives. Some of the affected persons being tolerant have chosen to treat some allegations made against them with contempt. The code of ethics of journalists in Ghana indicates that ?every

journalist is to write and report the truth, bearing in mind his/her duty to serve the public. The public have the right to unbiased, accurate, balanced and comprehensive information as well as express themselves freely through the media. A journalist should make adequate enquiries and cross-check his/her facts?. Since Some journalists have been found wanting the National media commission which is charged with the responsibility of regulating the work of media houses has had the opportunity to intervene to deal with some complaints made against offending journalists and media houses leading to apologies rendered to aggrieved persons and institutions and in some cases amicable settlement reached between parties.
Of late some aggrieved persons have chosen to take up the issues of character assassination to court to redeem their names leading to some of the courts awarding hefty costs on some newspaper and publishing houses.
After awarding a hefty GHc300, 000 Ghana and GHc 250,000 in libel and defamation cases against two local newspapers the informer and the Daily Guide respectively there are threats by some other personalities to sue some personalities for defamation. While the Daily Guide was sued by Mr. Johnson Asiedu Nketia for alleging that he had used to his role as board member at the Bui Power Authority to build houses in Accra and Kumasi, ?The Informer? on its part was sued for accusing the then Chief of Staff in the Kufuor Administration, Kwadwo Mpiani of conniving with his friends at Evans Timbers to clear goods at the port without proper documentation and also under-invoiced.
The Daily Guide publishers the Western Publications have served notice to appeal against the cost awarded them. While the two organizations and members of the public are awaiting the outcome of the judgment reached the Mayor of Kumasi, Mr. Kojo Bonsu, has sued two assembly members of the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly claiming damages of GHc 300,000 for defamation.
The two, Philip Addae, Assembly member for Kokoso electoral area and Assembly member for Anomangye, Maxwell Ofosu Boachie, have been sued for accusing the

Mayor of selling a tract of land opposite KMA to a Korean firm and a precast parcel of land as well.

Many people including civil society organizations feel that the increase in legal suits resulting in huge costs awarded against media houses is not fair. Apart from being unreasonably large the high costs would be enough to neutralize the watchdog roles of the media and throw many media houses out of operation. This would have multiplying negative effect as it would lead to journalists and workers in the media houses moving out of employment. The reading public would also be deprived of their rights to balanced reportage.
I am not in the least supporting bad reportage that border on unsubstantiated character assassination. I cannot stand any paper making false allegations against well behaved public officials. However I find it difficult to go along with the huge costs awarded some aggrieved personalities.

People have the right to seek redress in court when they are defamed. However they must first react to wrong information given about them by writing rejoinders or lodge complaints with the national media commission. The commission has the mechanism to call erring journalists and media houses to order. While journalists are well advised to follow their code of ethics by cross examining stories they get from their sources before putting them out. For it is disheartening for journalists and media houses working around the clock to provide information to the public to be punished or grounded for playing their watchdog roles in the society

Executive Director
EANFOWORLD FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
P.O.BOX 17070AN 233244370345/23326370345/ 233208844791
[email protected] / [email protected]

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