Deepening our democracy

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Ghana took a giant stride in its democratic march yesterday when it allowed television cameras and microphones into the courtroom for a live coverage of the litigation over the 2012 presidential poll.

Until the directive by the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, that the proceedings of the presidential election petition before the Supreme Court be broadcast live via television and radio, cameras were prohibited in our courtrooms.

Some court reporters have nasty experiences about their dealings with the courts because even the act of taking notes in the courtroom without permission has attracted severe rebuke from judges.

That was why when the Danquah Institute proposed that the election petition before the Supreme Court be carried live by television and radio, it was met with stiff opposition because the proposal was felt to be out of place.

Many have described the petition as a landmark case whose hearing must not leave a section of society in doubt about the transparency of proceedings.

Keen observers of the political scene have no doubt in their minds that this case is crucial to the future of democratic governance in the country.

Kenya has shown the way with an election petition that was determined in favour of Uhuru Kenyatta, although the verdict was accepted reluctantly by Raila Odinga.

The Daily Graphic hopes that the decision to allow TV cameras into the courtroom will reduce the tension building in society over perceived misrepresentation of issues during proceedings.

It is difficult to get parties in a dispute to speak objectively about proceedings in court without creating the impression of bias.

Since the beginning of the hearing of the petition in court, counsel for the parties have expressed opinions on proceedings and, in most of the cases, the lawyers take sides because they must be seen to be defending the cause of their clients.

The Chief Justice last week advised lawyers against the use of the airwaves to fight their cases.

“Fighting our cases on the airwaves without a twinge of conscience and in patent violation of the ethics of the profession, rather than proffering sound legal arguments in the courtroom, is most unprofessional,” she said.

It is our expectation that the outcome of the petition will help deepen our democratic credentials, and for this reason the Daily Graphic urges all the parties to be circumspect in their commentaries about the issues that come up in the courtroom.

The Judicial Service, in its statement about the live coverage, said the decision “will deepen our country’s democracy and satisfy the greater public desire for accurate and up-to-date information on this historic and landmark case”.

Now we think the public will take a keen interest in the case on radio, television and in the newspapers, so that they are not misled by people with sectarian interest.

The Daily Graphic calls on all Ghanaians to prepare their minds towards the final ruling by the judges, as the decision will favour a party in the case. Our position is that when that happens, the parties should accept the verdict in good faith, put the election blues behind them and rally for the development of the country.

The case is sensitive, but we can come out of it as a stronger nation, depending on the way the verdict is managed.

The Daily Graphic thinks that the parties and their supporters and other Ghanaians do not have an option but to leave the judges to do their work.

We may not agree with the decision of the judges, but law and order prevails in a society where litigants accept court verdicts that do not promote their interests.