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19 July 2016

Montie panelists, host found guilty

muntieContemnors in a case of threat against justices of the Supreme Court have been found guilty.

The court presided over by Justice Sophia Akuffo found the accused guilty for scandalizing the court, defying and lowering the authority of the court and bringing it into disrepute.

Two radio panelists, Godwin Ako Gunn and Alistair Nelson were cited for inciting hatred against, and threatening to kill, justices of the Supreme Court.

The host of the programme on which the comments were made, Salifu Maase known as Mugabe and owners of the station are currently at the Supreme Court to answer why they should not be held for contempt.

Counsel for the accused, Nana Ato Dadzie is pleading for mercy.

He says although a threat on the lives of the judges and any other Ghanaian is despicable and ought to be condemned as insensitive no matter how empty they are – especially when they are made on the eve of martyr’s day, the accused should be pardoned.

He quoted Mark 3:18 in his plea.

He however noted that there is a raging dispute over the freedom of the media vis-à-vis the court’s jurisdiction.

Nana Ato Dadzie added that it was important for free speech to be promoted, insisting it is not easy to reconcile that with the laws on contempt.

He quoted Article 162 (4) to support his point.

He said the kind of punishment meted out today may define the media and make it docile and ineffective.

He continued that “Ours is a young democracy, we need to nurture the system by not crippling the media.”

In a response to what will be done by operators of the station to forestall a recurrence of the unacceptable behavior, Nana Ato Dadzie said a meeting with the board will be held to roll out plans.

But the presiding judge Sophia Akuffo reminded him [Nana Ato Dadzie] that the Director Edward Addo had said earlier that steps have been taken.

Nana Ato Dadzie retreated and said machines have been procured to deal with the problem, adding, “the problem is widespread across the country.” However, Justice Sophia Akuffo again reminded him that the whole country is not before the court.

Ato Dadzie then said the young men have had the first brush with the law and it is essential that they are not sent to prison unless “it’s absolutely necessary.”

Counsel for the host of the programme on which the contemptuous comments were made, Nana Agyei Ampofo also pleaded for mercy.

He said his client has apologized and that his subsequent praise for the judges should mitigate his offence.

He asked for the June 29 tape recording of his client praising the judges to be played in court because justice requires that the “the other side is played.”

Nana Agyei Ampofo prayed the court to “Bare its teeth but not bite. They should fire warning shots and not maim them,” because the first sentence for a first offender must not crush the offender.

Counsel for Alistair and Gunn, George Loh, said ordinarily, he would not have commented after a Catholic and an Anglican have spoken but he is happy the owners are also there to plead.

He added that their families are in peril and pleaded that the contemnors are not sent to prison.

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