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Freedom of speech under assault by Justices of the Supreme Court


Wednesday the 28th of July 2016 will go down in infamy. Years from now when Ghana’s history is written, it will be noted explicitly that it was the day freedom of speech was savagely assaulted, shredded and ultimately strangled to death by a veritable national institution that is constitutionally obligated to uphold and protect this fundamental right.

The highest court in the land, the Supreme Court has wielded a big stick against three NDC back-benchers and the message is crystal clear: don’t as much as hurl insults at the Judges of the court or you risk spending a fairly long, miserable time in a cold prison cell.

Much as I deplore the utterly stupid and inexplicable outbursts by the two NDC foot soldiers, Alistair and Gunn, I am deeply saddened and hugely dismayed by the stiff four month sentence slapped on the duo and on the insufferable Mugabe, not to mention the stiff fines imposed on the owners of Montie radio f.m.

It is important to be brutally honest here. Alistair and Gun grossly misbehaved; in fact, they were caught with their pants down, so to speak. There was absolutely no need for the threats and empty bravado they projected. All they had to do was state their opinion devoid of insults and threats and move on.

These guys were, to all intents and purposes, blowing hot air as my American friends would say. Under no circumstances would the judges who were threatened have met physical harm. Crucially, the two men by going on the air and threatening certain Supreme Court judges, have publicly implicated themselves should any harm befall the judges. They cannot run away from that fact.

Ghanaians have not forgotten the heinous murders of three Supreme Court justices in the chaotic days of the Rawlings inspired revolution and any attempt at harming any judge would be met with a national anger the likes of which we have never seen before.

That said, we should not let our emotions dictate our reasoning; let us see Alistair, Gunn and Mugabe for what they really are; a bunch of party apparatchiks, background hustlers and nothing more.

The Supreme Court’s decision two weeks ago to haul in the three men and compel them to explain the rationale behind their verbal threats was doubtlessly a wise and prudent move by an institution held in high regard by millions of Ghanaians.

I, like many others, thought the Justices of the Court were going to give the NDC loudmouths a stern verbal dressing down and let them off with a hefty fine and a warning not to engage in such silly and childish ever again. But boy, was I wrong!!!!!

Be that as it may, the harsh sentence has exposed the Supreme Court to ridicule and scorn, besides further polarizing the country which is already on edge because of impending elections in December.

The implications of the Supreme Court’s action are huge and will endure for a long time. Without mincing words, let me state emphatically that we now live in a strange and new environment of judicial intimidation and censorship.

Henceforth, those of us who write and talk for a living have to walk on egg shells lest we offend the sensibilities of the wigged ones in Accra. The slightest perceived insult to the dignity of the Supreme Court will be met with a severe reprimand and jail time.

I have no illusions that public enthusiasm for the court will be dampened and anything the Court does from now on, will be viewed with great suspicion and doubt.

There is already one school of thought that pushes the narrative that the court is highly partisan. And that perception, unfortunately has been reinforced by the court’s sad decision to send Alistar, Gun and Mugabe to the big house. The court has unknowingly turned the three men into national heroes.

What baffles me is the unfortunate impression the judges projected with their severe punishment of the three men….apparently the judges don’t think our political discourse acutely lacks civility.

But someone ought to inform the judges that the current political atmosphere is toxic, that it encourages loose talk, and that the political parties are taking undue advantage of it to say unpleasant things. It was under these circumstances that the threats were made. The atmosphere is noisy, chaotic and vengeful.

Given the ugly nature of politics in Ghana today, with all the insults, name calling and negativity, Justice Sophia Akuffo should have devoted some of her time scolding the major political parties and holding them responsible for the ugliness we see today. Taking it out on three feeble foot soldiers sends the wrong message.

In all honesty, the Supreme Court was deliberately dragged into the slug fest between the NDC and the NPP by unscrupulous individuals who have a score to settle with the Electoral Commission. The Court should have maintained a dignified silence over the issue and deferred the prosecution of Alistair, Gunn and Mugabe to a lower court.

All told, the court’s action has once again plunged the nation into a state of confusion and heightened agitation; tempers are running high and the fault-lines, the political divisions have only gotten bigger. This, my friends, does not augur well for the future.

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