The Supreme Court yesterday cracked the whip by sentencing the host of a political programme and two panellists at Montie FM, an Accra-based radio station, to four months imprisonment in hard labour for treating the courts with disdain.
Messrs Salifu Maase alias Mugabe (host), Alistair Tairo Nelson and Godwin Ako Gunn were again ordered to pay GH¢10,000 each or in default serve additional one month prison sentence in hard labour.
The convicts made some disparaging comments against the judges of the
Supreme Court, threatening their lives on a political programme on Montie FM dubbed “Pampaso” on June 29, 2016, the eve to Martyrs Day, a day set aside in remembrance of the murder of the three High Court Judges during the 1981 revolution.
The court further ordered the Network Broadcasting Company Limited, owners of the radio station and ZeeZee Media Ghana Limited, owner of the frequency, to pay a fine of GH¢30,000 each by the close of today, Thursday, July 28, 2016.
According to Ms. Justice Sophia Akuffo, president of the five-member panel of judges, the officers of the Network Broadcasting Company Ltd. and ZeeZee Media Ghana Ltd. shall be respectively held personally liable to imprisonment for failure to comply with the order of the court.
“The Network Broadcasting Company Ltd, is hereby ordered to produce to the court policies and measures they have developed in ensuring that the operations of all their stations namely Radio Gold, Montie FM and Gold TV, are conducted in such a manner as shall effectively assure that the contemptuous, unlawful acts and impropriety such as exhibited in this matter, never occur again.
“The company must obey this order before the close of 28th day of July, 2016.
“The company known as ZeeZee Media Ghana Ltd. owner of the Frequency, is also hereby ordered to produce to the court the policies and measures put in place to ensure that the utilisation of the Frequency by Network Broadcasting Company Ltd. does not and cannot give rise to unlawful and contemptuous act as occurred in this matter”, the court directed.
Owners or directors of Montie FM are, Messrs Ato Ahwoi, Edward Addo Kwasi Atuah, Kwaku Bram Larbi (Secretary) while Mr. Harry Zakour owns the frequency.
Before passing sentence, Mr. Justice Akuffo said, that the punishment meted out to the convicts would serve as a deterrent to other media house owners and panellists who had made it their stock-in-trade to bastardise prominent personalities and institutions at the least opportunity.
She said that the Supreme Court was compelled to exert its authority yesterday because some people in this country had considered it a “toothless bull dog which barks but cannot bite”, and expressed worry that some Ghanaians had still not learnt any lessons from the four persons who misconducted themselves during the 2012 presidential election petition and were punished accordingly.
She said that the court was aware of the invaluable services the media played in this country but condemned the unwarranted attacks some Ghanaians unleashed on their colleagues all in the name of press freedom.
“To whom much is given, much is expected”, Ms. Justice Akuffo stated, and advised users of the various platforms to make judicious use of them towards, national and human resource development.
She pointed out that Alistair and Ako Gunn wilfully attacked the Chief Justice, Ms. Georgina Theodora Wood and accused the court of trying to tilt the judgement on the cleaning of the register of voters in favour of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) the largest opposition party in Ghana.
She said that the host, Mr. Maase also failed woefully to control the panellists who lost their heads out of excitement soon as they entered the studio, and rather spurred them on to spew the unprintable words against the judges.
On the part of the directors, the court was of the view that they had not lived up to their responsibility by not closely monitoring the programmes put out to the general public for consumption.
She said that the nation’s democracy would thrive if Ghanaians had utmost respect for the judiciary and regard for rule of law, which the courts would not compromise, and called for the total sanitisation of the media landscape especially the airwaves.
Some sympathisers of the convicts who had gathered at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly car park close to the Kwame Nkrumah Museum were seen shedding uncontrollable tears following the decision of the court.
According to them, it was their expectation that the court would tamper justice with mercy following the numerous pleadings during the proceedings by the convicts and the general public.
They said the convicts were breadwinners of their families, and for that reason the prison sentence would have repercussions on those under their care.
Those who could not withstand the shock hurled insults at the police for not affording them the opportunity to see the faces of the convicts before they were escorted to prison to begin their sentence.
The convicts were whisked into a waiting blue police van immediately after the sentence was passed. As usual, there was a heavy security presence at the court premises, with some roadblocks right from the old Parliament House to the main gate of the court.
By Castro Zangina-Tong & Edem Mensah Tsotorme