Apologise for threatening journalists - UPDN to Prof. Mike Ocquaye

The United Press for Development Network (UPDN) has asked Prof. Aaron Mike Ocquaye, Speaker of Parliament to apologise for threatening journalists who abandon sittings of the chamber to cover press conferences of the Minority in the House.

Speaker of Parliament Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye

UPDN said it finds the Speaker's actions to withdraw the accreditation of journalists as "intolerant, undemocratic and unfortunate."

Professor Mike Ocquaye threatened to punish members of the parliamentary press corps who abandon parliamentary sessions to cover press conferences following the decision by the Minority to abstain from the debate on the State of the Nation address delivered by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

His [Speaker] decision comes on the back of a complaint from the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu to the effect that journalists abandoned proceedings in the house and gave the audience to the Member of Parliament for Ellembele, Emmanuel Armah Buah, who addressed the media on the energy sector.

The Speaker in response said: "It is forbidden. If they have any doubt to abandon the permission given them to cover proceedings in this House and go outside the Chamber itself and do some other work…I want to let the media know.

"If that which is reported to have happened should happen again, I have reminded you of the fact that you are here as guests by my permission. Because of the importance, this House attaches to the MP profession, any such humiliation will make you an unwelcome guest and your welcome will be duly withdrawn."

UPDN in a statement signed by Kofi Asante Mensah, President of UPDN called on the Speaker of Parliament to apologise to the press corps, adding: "The position of Right Honorable Speaker is not only intimidating but an act to gag and censor the press."

"The inky fraternity has enjoyed press freedom, freedom of expression and cordial relationship with the august house (Parliament) and Prof. Mike Oquaye must be counseled to consolidate the gains and successes accomplished by his predecessors but not jeopardise it," the statement added.

"The media is satisfying a constitutional mandate on behalf of the people of Ghana and must be regarded as such," it noted.

Meanwhile, Parliament has denied reports that Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye is seeking to gag the parliamentary press corps.

In a statement on the matter, the public affairs directorate of the House said: "Parliament has noted media reports purporting that the Speaker of Parliament is seeking to gag the media. The Office would like to put on record that at no time either in his capacity as Speaker or in his personal capacity has Prof. Aaron Michael Ocquaye sought to prevent the media from doing its work. Parliament recognises the critical role of the media and the Speaker made reference to the same when he spoke about the high regard with which he holds the media’s work.

"Both leaders referred to the need for a dutiful media and the need for the media to remain in the Chamber while the House is still in session. Parliament, the Speaker, leaders and the entire Membership of the House remain committed to the ideals of a free media and freedom of speech as provided for in Chapter 12 of the 1992 Constitution and will not do anything to jeopardise this".

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