US-based Ghanaian law professor, Stephen Kwaku Asare, says Parliament has no legal basis whatsoever for ‘punishing’ a Daily Graphic journalist accused of misreporting parliamentary proceedings.
Quoting article 162(4) of the 1992 constitution, he argued that journalists enjoy absolute privilege and cannot be penalized for the content of their publication, hence “there is no support in law for what Parliament is doing and has done”.
The Daily Graphic journalist, Mark Anthony Vinorkor, had his accreditation revoked last week after the legislators accused him of misreporting proceedings on the constitutional instrument, which will regulate the conduct of elections.
According to the members of parliament, the journalist was on July 14 invited by the leadership of the House at which event he apologised yet went ahead the next day to write another story, which the MPs say, slighted the leadership of the House.
He has consequently been summoned before the Parliamentary Privileges Committee on an apparent charge of contempt, which he must answer.
‘No to parliamentary lawlessness’
But commenting on the matter in a Facebook post, the law lecturer contended that the actions of Parliament has no legal basis and urged the media to be more assertive and protective of its privileges under Article 162(4) of the constitution and say “no to parliamentary lawlessness”.
According to him, pre-empting the Committee’s work, both the Speaker and the leadership of Parliament have not only found the journalist guilty but also imposed punishment on him, something he described as “disturbing”.
Prof. Kwaku Asare further averred that on the law of contempt there is little doubt that both Parliament and the Court have the power to punish for contempt, noting Article 164 is a limitation on Parliament’s contempt power.
Inaccurate reporting not contemptuous
He cited section 6.3 of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association 2003 Report, which states, “inaccurate reporting by the media should not be considered as a contempt of Parliament. Contempt should be reserved for serious cases of interference with Parliament’s ability to perform its functions.
“If this guy is reporting inaccurately, why does Parliament not cure his mischief by putting every statutory instrument online,” he asked, adding “it is my opinion that the leadership has acted prematurely by punishing the guy before the privileges committee has done its work.
“Of all our institutions, Parliament is in the best position to understand and to defend this principle”.
By Stephen Kwabena Effah|3news.com|Ghana