Public Relations Officer for the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) Tony Forson has announced that the GBA, in cooperation with other groups, has undertaken a public education campaign to spread awareness of the election adjudication process.
Former Judicial Reform Director, Sandra Thompson explained that that the initiative aims to help the public better understand the roles of the Supreme Court, which can serve as an appellate, review, and constitutional court, and who its members are, namely, a set of highly trained individuals.
Mr. Forson announced that the initiative, which is in collaboration with the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) and the Civic Forum Initiative, would include public events, one of which takes place in Koforidua Monday. It will also include messages broadcast from a variety of media.
Forson and Thompson appeared on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, where Mr. Forson explained that too often, lawyers and other figures speak to the media on private details of active cases, effectively moving cases from legal courts to the court of public opinion, where members of the public are too easily influenced by these one-sided representations of cases.
Speaking of the New Patriotic Party’s ongoing challenge of the 2012 presidential election result, he said that both sides have conducted themselves poorly in this regard, and Ms. Thompson added that in some cases, members of the public who speak publicly on matters currently before a judge could be prosecuted for contempt.
Ms. Thompson lamented the fact that many Ghanaians comment on cases before they even reach court and tend to assume that judges are incompetent.
She said that because judges can only speak publicly on cases when issuing their decisions, they cannot defend themselves against public criticism and therefore become easy targets.
Furthermore, she explained, the judiciary is endowed with an air of mystery, but Chief Justice Georgina Wood has worked to demystify it through a variety of initiatives. Notably, she has written and revised a manual to guide judges through a timely adjudication process and to inform the public about the nature of the judiciary.
The GBA PRO reminded Ghanaians that in cases of traditional conflict resolution, a chief sets a date for the issue to be heard at his palace, and before that day, the concerned parties do not discuss the case in the media.
He urged Ghanaians to treat the country’s national legal institutions with the same reverence and respectful silence.
Unfortunately, Ms. Thompson said, many Ghanaians only truly come to understand the importance of the court when they have been cheated or wrongfully accused and their DCEs, MPs, and government fails to help them.
Mr. Forson pointed out that legal issues are complicated by nature and that while the education campaign will simplify them as much as possible for the public’s sake, they will nonetheless remain somewhat complicated.