Judge threatens to blacklist reporters for poor coverage

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

A Justice of the Financial Division of the Accra Fast Track High Court has threatened to blacklist any media house that continuously publishes misleading reports on the GH¢51.2 million criminal case involving Alfred Agbesi Woyome, a businessman.

“Any media house which publishes misleading reports won’t be allowed in my court. This is a court of record and things must be done properly,” the trial judge, Mr Justice John Ajet-Nasam, said sternly.

He, therefore, advised journalists who needed clarification to get copies of court proceedings after each hearing to avoid publishing inaccurate reports.

He further indicated that reporters were free to listen to recordings with headphones if the need arose to avoid misleading the public with inaccurate reports.

Turning to reporters in the courtroom, Mr Justice Ajet-Nasam said, “I have said time and again that you can access the record of proceedings at the end of each hearing in order to report accurately.”

His warning came against the backdrop of what the court observed as misleading reports on the case by four media houses at the last hearing of the case.

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Justice Ajet-Nasam, who has, from the beginning of the trial on February 6, 2012, exhibited warmth towards the media, also had issue with how an Accra-based private radio station, Peace FM, reported the March 5, 2013 proceedings of the court.

A Chief State Attorney, Ms Cynthia Lamptey, was the first to raise concern over the way the Daily Guide and The Enquirer reported the case at the last hearing.

Counsel for Woyome, Alhaji Musah Ahmed, also expressed worry over The Ghanaian Times headline of March 6, 2013 which read: “No contract was awarded Woyome – Witness”, since there had been no submission to that effect on March 5, 2013.

Noting all the worries of the parties in the case, the trial judge said he also listened to Peace FM’s report on the last proceedings of the court and was not pleased with the way the radio station sensationalised the proceedings.

 He, subsequently, advised all media houses to adhere to the basic tenets of the journalism profession or risk being thrown out of the court.

Meanwhile, a sixth prosecution witness, the Director of Legal Affairs at the Public Procurement Authority (PPA), Mrs Lesley Duodu, in her testimony, gave an overview of the work of the authority.

She said the PPA was a regulatory body which regulated government purchases in order to streamline government’s financial management.

Mrs Duodu explained the work of the Central Review Tender Board (CRTB) and said the work of the PPA also included ensuring that government procurement did not infringe on cross-border trading.

The following transpired between Alhaji Ahmed and Mrs Duodu during cross-examination:

Alhaji Ahmed: Do you know the accused person?

Mrs Duodu: Yes.

Alhaji Ahmed: Did you deal with the accused person in your working?

Mrs Duodu replied in the affirmative and said she previously worked for 12 years at the Legal Department at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP) and advised on various projects as part of her work.

She said in the process of her work at MOFEP, “I may” but quickly said, “I did come across him in the line of my work.”

At that moment, the trial judge ended proceedings and adjourned the case to March 27, 2013.

Woyome has been charged with two counts of wilfully causing financial loss to the state and defrauding by false pretence.

He is alleged to have made false representation to claim GH¢51.2 million from the government through a default judgement but he has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is currently on a GH¢20 million bail.

Five prosecution witnesses who have so far testified in the matter are a Deputy Head of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP), Mrs Mangowa Ghanney; a former Minister of Finance, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo; a former Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr Kwaku Agyemang-Manu; Ms Yvonne Quansah, who is stationed at the Financial Sector Division of MOFEP, and a former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), Mr Lionel Vanlare Dosoo.

Story by Mabel Aku Baneseh

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