Government has petitioned the National Media Commission (NMC) over the ‘Castle militia’ documentary produced by the Multimedia group and Manasseh Azure.
The seven page petition signed by the Minister for Information Kojo Oppong Nkrumah and intercepted by Starrfm.com.gh is addressed to the Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), and dated March 13, 2019.
According to the petition, “the Government of Ghana brings this complaint pursuant to article 167(b) of the Constitution as well as section 2(1) (b) of the National Media Commission Act, 1993 (Act 449) and invites you to investigate the publication, the subject matter of this complaint”.
The Bases for the Petition
The petition indicates that the narrative of the 22 minute documentary stated emphatically that a “militia” had been uncovered training and operating at a “Security Zone”, with the complicity of the Government of Ghana, and identified them as belonging to the New Patriotic Party. The alleged Security Zone was identified as the Christiansborg Castle, Osu, Accra, and the “militia” was also named as “De-Eye Group”.
The Case of Government
In analysing the said documentary, Government indicates that “a careful examination of the contents of the impugned publication discloses that the first six (6) minutes, twenty (20) seconds of the documentary are about matters totally unconnected to the advertised subject matter of the documentary. They largely, showed images from the violence witnessed at the recent Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election, which is the subject matter of an inquiry by a Commission of Inquiry set up pursuant to article 278 of the Constitution (the Emile Short Commission). The attempt by Manasseh Awuni, and Multimedia to portray the company as being engaged in the perpetration of acts seen in the first 6 minutes and 20 seconds of the documentary, or similar thereto only exposes the mischief with which the documentary was laced and does little credit to the reputation of a media house that prides itself as independent and guided by the ethics of the media profession”.
Grounds for the petition
The petitioner stated further that “we bring this complaint because the substance of the story complained of, is in various material essentials, utterly false, a product of gross misrepresentation of facts, wild speculation by the producer of the documentary specified above, and same betrays a desperate attempt on the part of Multimedia and Manasseh Awuni to vilify the sincere effort by the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to end the worrying phenomenon of political vigilantism in the country”.
The documentary, government says, “deliberately omitted to state the material fact that National Security Council Secretariat had closed down the purported office of the company since October 2018. Indeed, as of the date of publication of the documentary in March 2019, there was no activity of whatsoever nature by the company at the Castle. At the time of airing the documentary, multimedia played it to create the false impression to the public that such a false activity was ongoing at the premises of the Osu Castle. The mischief at the time of airing was to muddy the waters at the same time when the President was taking steps to sanitize the Political environment off all acts of “vigilantism”.
Government says it views the impugned documentary as part of the unbounded calumny by Manasseh Awuni Azure, Joynews and its affiliates aimed at distorting Government policy and work on serious matters of national concern like the fight against vigilantism. Much as the undeniable track record of the President shows a selfless dedication to the defence of press freedom and human rights, irresponsible and unethical journalism threaten the democracy and peace of the nation.
List of Exhibits in Support of Petition
In support of the petition, Government attached six (6) exhibits to the petition to the NMC. The exhibits are MoI 1, Full Joynews Documentary; MoI 2, Joynews Promo; MoI 3, BBC Story; MoI 4, Myjoyonline Story; MoI 5, Museum Statement; and MoI 6, TV 3 Interview.
Reliefs Government is Seeking
The State in the petition is essentially seeking three reliefs in accordance with section 15 of Act 449.
The first is a declaration to the effect that the impugned documentary by Manasseh Awuni Azure and Joy news is misleading and constitutes a dishonest and deliberate misrepresentation of facts and calculated at causing undue public apprehension, alarm and panic.
The second is an order directed at Manasseh Awuni Azure and Joynews, for the retraction of and apology to the Government of Ghana on the contents of the said documentary referred to above; and the last is any further disciplinary measure(s) as the Commission may seem meet. In concluding, government expressed sincere hope that it complaint will be seriously investigated in accordance with journalistic standards published by the Commission as well as the ethics of the media profession.