Private legal practitioner, Justice Abdulai, has said he was taken aback upon hearing the fines that were imposed on the thugs who invaded United Television (UTV). Justice Abdulai said the fines made a mockery of the whole process of arresting, charging, and prosecuting the offenders. The 16 sympathisers of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) who invaded the station on Saturday, October 7 during its flagship entertainment show United Showbiz have been convicted and fined GH¢2,400 each.
The ruling was given by an Achimota Magistrate Court on Monday, October 16. They were charged with conspiracy to commit a crime and rioting. They all pleaded guilty to the charges. In default of the fines, they will be in prison for 3 months. They were also made to sign a bond of good behaviour each for the next six months.
Reacting to this on the Ghana Tonight show on TV3 on Monday, October 16, Justice Abdulai who is also a law lecturer at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) law school said “we are building a democracy for the future, and the protection and freedoms that our media houses are supposed to enjoy because of their special place in building quality democracy. One would have expected that we guard against some of these infractions of jealousy.
“I was completely taken aback when I saw the fines imposed on the accused persons who invaded the office while a live programme was airing. I keep asking myself and any other person who goes to shows how at such a night, it would feel. The kind of fear that you will entertain when you hear the sounds of mass of people threatening to cause mayhem while you are on the show, it is that scary.
“When this occurred I was expecting that you would use this to send that strong signal out there to anyone else out there who entertains such thoughts that this will be that kind of thing that regardless of our division in this country we would guard against, so we charge this person with one of the most deterring charges just so the court would impose punitive punishment don’t them.
“What happened is such a mockery and I wonder whether it serves all the principles underlining punishments and indeed underlining the building of stronger democracy with the media being used as the forefront. This is why I am so saddened by the decision that was handed today. I may not blame the judge because what was brought before him, is what determines how he or she determines the punishment to impose. ”
The 16 were part of some youth who stormed the studios of UTV, demanding the whereabouts of one of the panellists, Kwame Asare Obeng, popularly called A-Plus, who had in the previous edition of the show shredded an NPP letter written to the management of the station.
They had breached security to enter the studios during the live broadcast of the show. However, following a complaint from the Despite Media Group and Ministry of Information immediately, the police proceeded to the scene and arrested 16 persons. They were later granted bail. On Monday, the case was called and the judge convicted all the 16. Their action was widely condemned by all the major stakeholders including the NPP.
“It has come to the attention of the leadership of the New Patriotic Party an unfortunate incident that occurred last night at UTV involving some sympathisers of the NPP who went to the studio to raise a protest against the United Showbiz programme,” began NPP’s statement issued by Communications Director Richard Ahiagbah the following day.
“We wish to state forcefully that the said act was not sanctioned by the party, and we apologise unreservedly to UTV, the programme team, and the general public.” The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) named some of the persons who were involved in the dastardly act.
“It later emerged that these thugs were led by the Klottey Korle Youth Organizer of the New Patriotic Party, under the orders of Ernest Owusu Bempah, a Deputy Director of Communications and other leading figures of the ruling party,” NDC’s statement issued by National Communication Officer Sammy Gyamfi said.
“The NDC condemns this shameful act in no uncertain terms, as there can be no place for such uncivilised and beastly conduct in a democracy.
“Yesterday’s event sets Ghana’s democracy back and further erodes our fast dwindling press freedom fortunes as a country.
“We in the NDC are deeply worried about the level of intolerance of dissenting views in Ghana today under the tyrannical Akufo-Addo/Bawumia/NPP government. We completely condemn the extent to which the ruling NPP is determined to go to institutionalise a culture of silence.”
“We are informed that about 30 hooligans attacked the studios of the Accra-based private television station, and although the Police arrested some of them, others managed to escape,” the Ghana Journalists’ Association stated.
“The GJA expects the Police to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators expeditiously just as they exemplarily and commendably executed in the case of the attack on Dagbon FM in Tamale in May this year.
“The GJA also calls on the government, non-government organisations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), diplomatic community, international agencies and all well-meaning Ghanaians and people of good conscience to roundly condemn this barbaric act and the masterminds of same.”