Lawyers for Azure accuses gov’t of plots to censor media in response to petition filed against militia documentary

Investigative journalist, Manasseh Azyre Awuni, has filed a response to the petition filed against him before the National Media Commission (NMC) over his recent militia documentary.

The response which was filed by his lawyers is asking the NMC to dismiss the petition challenging the authenticity the documentary.

They lawyers are arguing that the government’s petition to the NMC was an attempt to censor the media.

The legal team led by by Mr Samson Lardy Anyenini, a legal practitioner in the petition said Multimedia Group Limited “never engaged in any act of professional misconduct; neither did it breach any rule, code or law or the Constitution, and certainly never did all the complainant accuses it of including the claim of airing a documentary containing offensive, utterly false, a product of gross misrepresentation of facts and wild speculation.”

The response is also indicating that government should not be given the reliefs it is seeking for against the media house because the complaint was baseless and unmeritorious and for that reason, it must be dismissed it in its entirety.

The respondent is further arguing that the government’s complaint was seeking to unconstitutionally and unlawfully fetter and frustrate respondent and the media in exercising the duty and obligation imposed on them and citizens in article 41 (f) of the Constitution to wit “to protect and preserve public property and expose and combat misuse and waste of public funds and property”.

The response further claimed that the government’s complaint was also to unconstitutionally and unlawfully fetter and frustrate the citizens’ right to information as guaranteed in article 21 (f) of the Constitution especially in matters of public interest.

It also described as unconstitutional the petition by the government and further aid it was unlawfully procure censorship and interfere with the freedom and independence of respondent and the media contrary to article 162 (1) and (2) of the Constitution.

The legal team have also accuses government of attempting to unconstitutionally and unlawfully prohibit and hinder Multimedia Group Limited from exercising the privileges as guaranteed in article 162 (4) of the Constitution that [e]ditors and publishers of newspapers and other institutions of the mass media shall not be subject to control or interference by government, nor shall they be penalised or harassed for their editorial opinions and views, or the content of their publications.

The respondent is pleading with the NMC not to allow the government to force its set of facts and interpretations on it “as this appears to be the thrust of the complaint and nothing more.”

“The complaint about what was contained in the first six minutes of the documentary is a most spurious attempt to dictate and direct discretion in clever censorship and same must be rejected outright. The said content was most relevant and a matter of public interest,” the response stated.

To the legal team of the journalist, the issues raised in the petition were of great public interest having engaged the entire nation and its leaders to the point of the President setting up a constitutional commission, directing political party leaders to work to end the phenomenon and instructing the Attorney-General to submit draft legislation for the purpose.

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