Speaker bars journalists from covering press conferences while parliament is in session
The Speaker of Parliament has barred journalists from covering press conferences while Parliament is in session.
Prof. Mike Oquaye issued the directive on Wednesday and threatened to punish journalists who go contrary to the unprecedented rule.
He said it is “forbidden” for journalists who have been accredited to report on plenary sessions to “abandon” the house to conduct interviews.
He quoted a Twi proverb which means ‘we do what is important before what is nice.”
The Speaker warned that any journalist who disregards this order will become “unwelcome guest”. “Your welcome will be duly withdrawn,” he said and stressed he takes a “serious view” of the matter.
Some members of the parliamentary press corps have, however, frowned upon the directive. An editor told Joy News, “I totally disagree with this directive.”
Photo: Members of the parliamentary press corps
Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu and Majority leader Osei Kyei Mensa Bonsu offered support for the Speaker’s directive.
“I agree with you that the media must be up and doing in covering proceedings of parliament,” Haruna Iddrisu said.
The edict from the Speaker comes after the Minority walked out of Parliament during the State of the Nation Address by President Nana Akufo-Addo.
The Minority NDC proceeded to organise a press conference to explain their move.
According to JoyNews parliamentary correspondent Joseph Opoku Gakpo, the tipping point was when an NDC MP granted interviews to a pool of reporters Tuesday.
Opposition MPs have been lining up to criticise the directive.
NDC MP, A.B.A Fuseini has condemned the Speaker’s order calling it “undue and unfair pressure” on media freedom.
“Media people know what constitutes news,” he told Joy News and signaled political interference.
Ningo-Prampram NDC MP has also accused the Speaker of double standards. He said on Joy FM that the Speaker sometimes requests journalists to leave the chamber and cover meetings between him and invited guests or dignitaries while parliamentary proceedings are ongoing.
But the Dean of the Parliamentary Press Corp, Nana Agyeman Tenkorang , said the Speaker appeared to caution journalists than to threaten them.
“He is not gagging us,” he said on JoyNews program, The Pulse, and explained that the Speaker did not want to see media houses leave the gallery with their cameras and microphones to interviews outside the chamber.
He said that was the case on Tuesday during sittings.
Accra-based radio station Joy FM has indicated it will disregard the Speaker’s directive.