The Chief Justice nominee, Sophia Akuffo, declined to give any substantial comments on the Montie Three case. which she presided over, during her vetting on Friday.
Justice Akuffo simply said she was uncomfortable justifying a judgment she delivered.
The Montie Three; Alistair Nelson, Godwin Ako Gunn and Salifu Maase, were sentenced to jail for four months after they were found to be in contempt of the Supreme Court in July of 2016, when they threatened the lives of Supreme Court Justices during a live radio programme.
The three were subsequently pardoned after serving only a month, by Former President Mahama, who exercised his constitutional prerogative of mercy, following petitions presented to him mostly by members of his government and party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
As part of her judgement, the four directors of Network Broadcasting Limited (Owners of Radio Gold and Montie FM), were roped into the contempt charge, and ordered to pay a fine of GHc30,000. Harry Zakuor, owner of Zeze media, which owns Montie FM’s frequency was also to pay a separate fine of GHc30,000.
Responding to a question on the idea of contempt protecting the integrity of the court, Justice Akuffo said, she was “not comfortable about being called upon to justify a judgment that we have delivered, but in general terms, concerning the scope of the exercising of the contempt power or labeling something to be contemptuous, I believe that each case will dictate the outcome.”
The question, from the Bawku Central MP, Mahama Ayariga, sought to understand why the contempt charge was extended to the owners of Montie FM.
Justice Akuffo, during her judgment at the time, said the owners were careless in their submissions to the court, as they appeared to have little or no interest in what transpired on their radio station.
She expressed the hope that, every media owner will henceforth take a keen interest in what is churned out on their frequencies.
GIBA suit against NMC
Also of note was the question relating to the declaration as constitutional, the law requiring media owners to seek content approval from the National Media Commission (NMC) before publication.
In a unanimous decision in November 2016, a seven-member panel, led by Justice Akuffo, held that certain regulations in the NMC (Content Standards) Regulations 2015 (L.I. 2224) amounted to censorship and contravened Article 162 Clause (4) of the 1992 Constitution.
Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) had dragged the NMC and the Attorney-General to court over aspects of the regulation.
GIBA claimed that the regulations were an affront to freedom of speech and the rights and freedoms granted to the media under Article 162 of the 1992 Constitution.
Justice Akuffo, explaining some aspects of the panel’s reasoning, said they considered aspects of the NMC’s regulations to be too broad and only asked them to return to the court with specifics.
“The balance is that, in the matter against the media commission, regulations were being made which were over-broad without specificity and carried all kinds of sanctions, therefore, what we were calling on the commission to do was to go back to the drawing board.”