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Swear In Chief Justice As President If. . .
 
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01-Nov-2013  
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Maurice Ampaw
 
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A private Legal Practitioner, Dr Maurice Ampaw, has suggested that the Chief Justice (CJ) be sworn into office as an acting President, in the event that an elected President’s eligibility was being challenged in court.

Although the constitution currently permits the Speaker of Parliament to act as President in the event of a power vacuum as a result of an electoral dispute, Dr Ampaw is of the view that such provision cannot be sustained because the Speaker represents the President’s party in Parliament.

According to him, the swearing in of the CJ is more appropriate because the judiciary is an independent body.

Addressing journalists at a forum organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in Accra, Dr Ampaw called for a stakeholder engagement on the law governing election petitions.

The forum, which is on the theme: “The media’s coverage of the 2012 election petition adjudication: Successes, challenges and the way forward”, brought together media practitioners and other stakeholder bodies.

Dr Ampaw said the law, in its current form, sought to favour the respondents who may have been declared duly elected by the Electoral Commission (EC).

He indicated that the present dispensation, where the President was sworn into office, while the adjudication of an election petition was pending, gave the presumption that the election was valid.

CJ’s failure to sit on case

Dr Ampaw also expressed disappointment at the Chief Justice’s failure to preside over the recent landmark election petition filed by the three individuals of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) as enshrined in Article 128, clause three of the 1992 Constitution. According to him, the Chief Justice denied Ghanaians her legal opinion on the case.

“For a judge of her calibre, having risen through all the ranks from being a magistrate to occupying the highest position in the judiciary, it is only fair that she sticks to the constitutional provision so that Ghanaians would benefit from her rich experience as a jurist”, Dr Ampaw reiterated.

A media practitioner, Ms Mabel Aku Baneseh, also urged colleague journalists to adhere to the ethics of the profession.

She also called on media institutions to put in place measures to make it possible for reporters to have access to working tools for the coverage of high profile court cases.

Sharing her experience as a court reporter on the coverage of the election petition at the forum, Ms Baneseh,who is also a Staff Writter on the Daily Graphic, said the election petition hearing gave her the opportunity to learn more about the electoral system in Ghana.

“In spite of the unnecessary interference from politicians that sought to derail our work, coupled with inadequate seats at the media gallery of the Supreme Court for journalists and the faulty public address systems, some journalists, I believe, rose to the occasion to produce accurate reportage of proceedings”, Ms Baneseh said.

“The law holds society together. A society cannot thrive without law because chaos and anarchy have never built any society. The role of the media in this regard is to safeguard peace and tranquility in the country. It can do this by supporting the judiciary and other state institutions to maintain law and order in the country”, she added.

Ms Baneseh, however, expressed regret at some senior journalists and political commentators who sought to twist the facts of the proceedings, which exposed journalists such as her to unnecessary attacks from political party activists.

She appealed to the judicial service to ensure that a separate media gallery was made available to the media for their exclusive use in future, so they would not have to struggle for space and seats with politicians and members of the general public.

Media Monitoring

A professor at the School of Communications Studies of the University of Ghana, Professor Audrey Gadzekpo, who chaired the programme, expressed the need for the National Media Commission (NMC) and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) to be resourced to enable them to carry out their mandate effectively.

She further urged media practitioners to self-regulate their reportage before publication.

She expressed worry that violators of the media whose language turned to be offensive were often the people who turned around to condemn the media for infractions.

“In every democracy, there is high tolerance of the media, although practitioners do not necessarily adhere to strong standards and codes”, Prof. Gadzekpo intimated.

She noted that in spite of the challenges, Ghanaians continued to have great faith in the media, despite the criticism of their professional ethics, owing to the fact that majority of Ghanaians were of the belief that the media had a major role to play in keeping government accountable.

Media Foundation

The Executive Director of the MFWA, Prof. Kwame Karikari, acknowledged the essential role played by journalists in Ghana’s democracy.

He urged the media to play a leadership role in their bid to publish public views.
 
 
 
Source: Daily Graphic
 
 

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