The Speaker of Parliament, Prof Aaron Mike Oquaye on Wednesday urged the Parliamentary press corps to be mindful of their responsibilities in covering proceedings in the House and go about their duties with due diligence.
He warned that he would not hesitate to cause the press to be unwelcome guests to the House if they [press] failed to discharge such duties to the House responsibly.
He gave the warning prior to the start of the debate on the President’s 2020 State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Wednesday [February 26, 2020].
Evacuation of Chamber
This was after the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, had expressed strong reservation about the failure of the Parliamentary press corps to cover the debate on the SONA on Tuesday.
At the start of the debate on the SONA, the Minority side announced that they were abstaining.
Following that majority of the press corps left the Chamber for a press conference by the MP for Ellembelle, Mr Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, who wanted to correct what he said were erroneous impressions created by the President during his SONA on the drilling of oil wells.
Mr Buah said the impression created by President Akufo-Addo that not a single oil well was drilled by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) from 2013 to 2016 and other attempts by the current government to discredit the achievements of the NDC in the oil and gas sector.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu informed the Speaker that the press abruptly left the House to follow an individual Member of Parliament (MP) from the Minority side for an interview at the expense of business of the House.
According to the Majority Leader, before the debate on the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) could commence, he observed that the House had been abandoned by the media who were supposed to cover proceedings in the Chamber.
Out of curiosity, he said requested one of the Majority Deputy Whips to follow up to ascertain why the media representatives had “had evacuated the chamber.”
The MP for Suame told the House that he was later informed by the Deputy Chief Whip that a Member of Parliament who had opted not to be in the House to participate in the debate had engaged the press outside about the content of the President’s speech “for which reason the press had followed that member outside.”
“Mr Speaker, let it be on record that the media are accredited to come and cover the proceedings in the Chamber; any group or caucus who wants to engage the press could do so but normally what we did as we were in the Minority was to engage the press before the sitting of the House.
“Perhaps, something dramatic could have happened in the Chamber which would occasion the press following to enquire whatever might have happened,” he said.
He pointed out that since the media were accredited to cover the proceedings, they did not have to leave the Chamber at the beck and call of an individual MP.
“Mr Speaker, if the media want to cover the proceedings, let it be so registered; I think that they should discharge their responsibilities to this House and not to individuals,” he emphasised.
Reacting to the concerns raised by the Majority Leader, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrissu, agreed with the Majority Leader that the media must be up and doing and cover the proceedings of Parliament diligently.
He said the media should be dutiful to Parliament and the House and they should behave in a manner that served the interest of Parliament and not any individual.
“Mr Speaker, it does not lie within the Majority Leader to determine who holds what conference and when and that is why we are elected as representatives; we are entitled to the media and not just the parliamentary media,” he said.
The Speaker cautioned the Parliamentary press corps to be circumspect in the manner they cover the proceedings in the House, placing the interest of the House above the individual legislators.
He reminded them that the media had the recognition and permission granted by the Speaker but the members of the corps would be “strangers in this honourable House” if they failed to discharge their duties in a responsible manner.
“In other words, you have our permission to be here by dint of their profession and the work expected of them and we regard them very highly.
“I want to make it clear that as much as they may give interviews before or after the plenary and the proceedings inside this honourable House and which interview or contribution could be from the Minority or the Majority any day, it is forbidden if they have any doubt to abandon the permission given them to cover the proceedings in this honourable House and go outside the Chamber itself and do some other work other than to come and cover the proceedings in this honourable House,” he stated.
“I want to let the media to know that if that which is reported to have happened should happen anymore, 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 inky profession,” the Speaker said.
“Any such deviation will make you an unwelcome guest and your welcome will be duly withdrawn. After sitting, that is when I arise, I want to meet the head of the Parliamentary press corps as well as the Director of Public Affairs,” he added.
Source: graphic online