Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa, Sulemana Braimah, has said contempt of parliament cannot be used to curtail the right of Ghanaians to free speech and expression.
He argued in a Facebook post Friday that while contempt of parliament is for good reasons, those “certainly do not include using it to curtail the people’s right to free speech and expression” For him, parliament should work to earn respect as it cannot “force [it] on the people”, stating “the dignity of Parliament can only be earned”.
Mr Braimah’s comments come on the back of a statement by a member of the pressure group, OccupyGhana, Sydney Casely-Hayford, to the effect that parliament makes “stupid decisions”, hence he would have taken it down if he had the power because “We don’t need it.”
The statement by Casely-Hayford has not been taken lightly by Parliament which is considering citing the financial analyst for contempt of parliament.
Member of Parliament for Kumbungu, Ras Mubarak on Thursday urged the Speaker to invite the Mr Casely-Hayford to explain the comments, which the House considers an attack on its present and past members.
“Mr. Speaker not only are his comments an attack on the integrity of all members of Parliament, past and present but if one were to stretch it, it even borders on promoting hatred and vandalism when he talks about breaking down parliament. Mr. Speaker we have a duty to defend and honour the integrity of this House,” Mr Mubarak said in Parliament Thursday.
The Speaker consequently referred the matter to the leadership of the House for consideration.
But Mr Braimah of the MFWA said parliament cannot curtail free speech and expression of the people of Ghana, arguing that it is important to have a free speech without parliament than vice versa.
“We are better off with our right to free speech without a parliament than a parliament without our right to free speech,” he said.
He was quick to explain further that his comments are not intended to advocate reckless speech, but rather “advocating for free speech”.
For Mr Braimah, anyone who feels maligned should take the matter to court to clear his name. This was when one Facebook user with the handle, Amorse B Amos, pointed it out that free speech comes with a responsibility and has a limit.
“…when you cross that red light, you cannot be covered by free speech,” Amos said. Another facebook user, Anthony Asare, disagreed with Mr Braimah’s seeming assertion that parliament is curtailing free speech.
“Who says parliament curtails free speech? It doesn’t in the slightest bit. All it wants is to allow it without disrespect to it. Speak about parliament but don’t speak disrespectfully about it,” he said.