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The fear of contempt is the beginning of wisdom
From: Ghana|Myjoyonline.com|Edwin Appiah          Published On: April 20, 2013, 13:39 GMT
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The fear of contempt is the beginning of wisdom

Caution, not to be cited for contempt of court in the on-going presidential election petition, characterized most political radio discussions this week-end.

On popular political discussions such as Joy FM's newsfile, Citi FM's Big Issues and Radio Gold's Alhaji & Alhaji, panelists were generally at pains to avoid the possibility of being cited for contempt of court.

On Alhaji and Alhaji, General Secretary of the People's National Convention (PNC), Bernard Mornah had attempted discussing in detail "pink sheets" submitted as evidence by the respondents in the court case.

But Managing editor of Insight newspaper, Kwesi Pratt chided Mr. Mornah for what he believed boarded on contempt of court. He said any discussion of pink sheets was a judgmental expression of opinion on the evidence and therefore likely to be contemptuous.

On Citi FM, partisan panelists, Nana Oppong Damoah of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and James Agalga of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) also noted the difficulty in examining the famous case in view of the case pending in court.

On your favourite Newsfile, Mr.Kweku Baako summed up the difficulty in discussing the election petition when in between his submission he remarked "I don't know if am being contemptuous".

The hearing of the election petition is fast revealing an acute need for lawyers in doing any meaningful analysis of events in court.

Lawyers were found in increasing numbers in studios of these three radio stations. Newsfile had lawyer Samson Lardy Ayenini as host. Lawyers, Gabby Otchere Darko of the NPP, Inusah Fuseini and Abraham Amaliba of the NDC were also present.

Public Interest lawyer and member of the NDC, Mr Sam Pee Yalley was a panelist on Radio Gold while on Citi FM, lawyers, James Agalga and Victor Adawudu members of the legal team of the NDC were invited as panelists, Lawyer Gary Nimako Marfo represented the NPP.

This week, calls for caution in analysis of the famous case has been plenty. Seasoned lawyer Sam Okudzeto and law lecturers at the Ghana School of Law, Moses Foh-Amoaning and Opoku Agyemang, have all warned political commentators to be circumspect in their utterances. The Supreme Court is yet to cite anyone for contempt.

Already, the General Secretaries of the two major political parties, Lawyer Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie of New Patriotic Party(NPP) and Mr. Johnson Asiedu Nketia of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) are fighting off a looming media black out for unwarranted post-court commentaries.
Edwin Appiah
According to legal practitioner and Director of the William Ofori Atta Institute of Integrity at the Central University, “the concept of contempt of court is one of the most abused concepts in contemporary Ghana. We use the phrase abusively, quite too often to contain free speech; free speech is superior to the fear of contempt, and yet what contempt of court seeks to control is predetermining the outcome of a case. Speaking about a case in such a manner as to decide it for the judge so that when a judgement is given which is contrary to what had been projected by you, then the public will say “ah, this person said this was going to be the decision, we have ‘B’. It means the court or the judge is corrupt. Public confidence in that decision is undermined.”

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