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Parliament bans Graphic reporter. Ordered to appear before Privileges Committee

BY: Musah Yahaya Jafaru
Mr Edward Doe Adjaho and Mr Mark-Anthony Vinorkor
Mr Edward Doe Adjaho and Mr Mark-Anthony Vinorkor

Parliament has referred the Daily Graphic parliamentary reporter, Mr Mark-Anthony Vinorkor, to its Privileges Committee over a story that suggests that the House had made changes to Constitutional Instrument CI 94 which it had no powers to do.

Giving the order yesterday, the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Edward Adjaho, said the accreditation of Mr Vinorkor be withdrawn for him to stop reporting from Parliament pending the outcome of the report of the Privileges Committee.

“I find myself in a very difficult situation, as part of the team of leadership that met him yesterday and advised him to apologise in my office now to be giving the order. Let the committee of the house in charge of this matters handle the issue. I’m therefore referring Mark -Anthony Vinorkor to the Privileges Committee.

“Meanwhile, I direct that his accreditation to this House should be withdrawn forthwith and Graphic may replace him with any other person,’’ he said.

The story which was published in the Thursday, July 14 edition of the Daily Graphic on page 23 stated, among other things, that “The most significant event that occurred in Parliament so far this week is the change in some clauses of the Public Elections Regulations, 2016 which has now been named Constitutional Instrument (CI) 94.”

It indicated that when the CI was first laid on Friday, it did not have any provision on offences related to elections, and that at the time it was laid only the Chairman of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee of Parliament, Mr O.B. Amoah, had a copy and that copy did not have anything related to punishment for election officers.

The story said but when copies of the CI were distributed to members on Monday, a new clause had been inserted. 

The Deputy Minority Leader, Mr Dominic Nitiwul, raised the issue about the reportage on the floor of the House last Wednesday, and the Speaker subsequently ordered that the leadership should meet Mr Vinorkor on the report.

At the meeting attended by Mr Nitiwul, a Deputy Minority Whip, Mr Ignatius Baffuor Awuah, the Majority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak and the Clerk to Parliament, Mr Emmanuel Anyimadu, the Speaker reportedly said what happened on Friday, July 8, 2016, was pre-laying and not the laying of the CI.

He said pre-laying preceded the laying of every CI after which it was laid.

The Speaker indicated that Parliament had no right or power to effect changes to any CI that had been laid and that any corrections could only be done preceding laying.

Mr Vinorkor’s response

The Daily Graphic in its July 15, 2016, carried a story indicating that the Speaker had advised the newspaper to retract the said story because it suggested that Parliament had bad motives and had made changes to a CI which it did not have powers to do.

After presenting the Speaker’s explanation, Mr Vinorkor also explained his position on the story.

According to him, the Public Elections Regulations, 2016 which is CI 94 and the Representation of the People (Parliamentary Constituencies) Instrument, 2016 were laid in Parliament on July 8.

Mr Vinorkor explained that as captured on the Order Paper, there was nothing to the effect that those papers were being “pre-laid”.

He indicated that the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Ebo Barton-Odro, pronounced them “laid,” while at the time, Members of Parliament (MPs) complained that the “document had been laid and yet we did not have copies”.

Mr Vinorkor said he obtained a copy of the CI and realised that it did not have any clause which spelt out punishment for electoral officers who committed infractions, and that he duly reported that in the newspaper.

Parliament insists on pre-laying

Referring to Mr Vinorkor’s response, Mr Nitiwul mentioned in the House that contrary to the advice for Mr Vinorkor to retract the story, he had written a story insisting that the CI was laid in Parliament.

He said initially, he was of the position that Mr Vinorkor should not be referred to the Privileges Committee but the conduct of Mr Vinorkor was compelling him to change that position.

Mr Nitiwul, therefore, suggested that Parliament should consider referring Mr Vinorkor to the Privileges Committee or withdrawing him from reporting from the House.

The Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Alfred Agbesi, said Parliament should not dignify Mr Vinorkor by referring him to the Privileges Committee.

The MP for Odododiodoo, Nii Lantey Vanderpuye, said Parliament should handle the issue in a way that it would not be considered as being too harsh on people.

He said the right procedure should be used in dealing with the issue.

He said the attention of management of Graphic Communications Group Limited should be drawn to the conduct of Mr Vinorkor.

Other MPs who contributed suggested that the procedure of Parliament should be used in dealing with the conduct of Mr Vinorkor.

Text message saga

At that stage, the Speaker said Mr Vinorkor had sent a text message to the Dean of the Press Corps, Mr Edwin Arthur, indicating that when leadership of the House invited him he would not come.

He said MPs would marvel if the content of the text message was read out to them.

In the said message, which was read out at a meeting of the Parliamentary Press Corp, Mr Vinorkor indicated that he would no more go through the Dean or the Public Affairs of Parliament to the leadership of Parliament to apologise for any story which he felt was not wrong.

He stated that he worked for Graphic and that his employers were supposed to handle such matters.

At the meeting, some members of the Press Corps expressed worry about how the message got to the Speaker.