Charges against UTV invaders woefully minimal – GJA, PRINPAG, GIBA
Mr Dwumfuor briefing the press Photo Victor A. Buxton
Leadership of three media unions have described as woefully minimal, charges imposed on individuals that invaded the studios of UTV to disrupt its late night entertainment show, Universal Showbiz.
The unions include the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) and the Private Newspaper and Online News Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG).
The individuals were convicted and fined GH¢2,400 each for conspiracy to commit crime and rioting by an Achimota Magistrate Court on Tuesday.
Addressing a joint press conference in Accra on Wednesday in reaction to the punishment, the three unions said the charge was not enough to serve as deterrent to people who attack journalists.
Led by the President of the GJA, Mr Albert Dwumfour said the charges were minimal and soft-handed.
According to the GJA President, the charge of conspiracy to commit crime and rioting, which formed the basis for the imposition of the fine on the suspects by the court, was not far-reaching and thorough enough.
He doubted why charges including unlawful entry, rioting, rioting with weapons, assault and battery, causing harm and threat of harm were not preferred against them.
That, he said could result in the imposition of stiffer punishments and deter others from attacking journalists.
He appealed to the judiciary to consider offences against the media as aggravating with the tendency to put fear in the media, leading to self-censorship and promotion of culture of silence.
The associations, Mr Dwumfour stated, would consider supporting the affected members to either urge the prosecution to consider appealing against the sentence or criticise the decision of the court.
While condemning the recent attack on the Citi TV/FM journalist by supporters of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the Odododiodoo constituency, he called on the police to act swiftly and arrest the culprits to ensure they face the law.
The GIBA President, Mr Cecil Thomas Sunkwa-Mills, also called on media organisations to provide appropriate protective gears to journalists in order to guard their safety in line of duty.
According to Mr Sunkua-Mills, protective gears such as helmets, bulletproof vests, gas masks, or first aid kits would protect their staff and
ensure they were free from attacks especially heading into the general elections in 2024.
Mr Sunkwa-Mills indicated that, journalists must also take their personal security into their own hands and stay away from danger while carrying out their assignments.
“Let us focus on in-house safety. It is important to take personal responsibility by using appropriate gears,” he stated.
He also asked journalists to report threats and harassment to their organisation, police, local authorities and relevant press freedom organisations.
The Acting (Ag) Executive Secretary for PRINPAG, Mr Jeorge Wilson Kingson, said the fine was small and fell short of serving its intended purpose of deterring miscreants from repeating such acts.
PRINPAG, he noted, was committed to the protection of journalists and the safeguarding of media freedom in Ghana, adding that “we stand united in our resolve to promote a society that respects and upholds the rights of media personnel
By Michael D. Abayateye