Civility in political discourse is not a restraint on the right to freedom of speech, Mrs Georgina Wood, the Chief Justice has said.
Speaking at the first National consultative conference to promote civility in the country’s political dialogue in Accra, Mrs Wood said civility enables the citizenry to draw the balance between decorum and the right to free speech.
The conference organised by The Civilised Politics for Enhanced Democracy (CiPED) Movement, an action-oriented organisation, was to explore and propose solutions to forestall the extreme politicisation of national issues, characterised by direct insults, innuendos and other forms of verbal abuse.
Mr Wood said civility in political discourse was a reflection of one?s maturity in tolerating opposing views without resorting to violence and the language of hate.
She said politicians must start constructive discussions to reach an understanding that would result in institutionalising rules of conduct in the form of an ethical code.
She said the codes would help regulate political discourse and reduce the growing incident of polarisation, which if not checked could threaten ‘our hard won peace.’
The Chief Justice said Ghana had become so extremely polarised that it needed to spend sometime to address ways by which the citizens could engage in political dialogue in a manner that demonstrates civility.
Mrs Wood said civility in political dialogue meant simply conducting one?s affairs with due regard and consideration for the other person.
She called on politicians to take a cue from the way advocates pursue their cases in court without using inappropriate language and yet persuasively make out a case.
“Such guidelines, when agreed upon, will provide the frame work for civility in political discourse and provide for sanctions that politicians must be prepared to enforce against erring members if we are to demonstrate that we understand the function of politics in our national life,” she added.
She was of the opinion that it was only the politicians who could bring into being, machinery that would regulate political discourse.
She urged politicians to learn from the courts, the control mechanism that ensures that proceedings were conducted with utmost civility with sanctions provided for default.
“I think the time has come for us to devote our energies towards considering the real challenges that confront us in our development efforts so that together we can succeed and make Ghana a prosperous nation, ?she said.
Mrs Wood expressed the hope that through this initiative the country could begin a journey to reclaim civility in political discourse, which was an essential tool in the free exchange of ideas on which a democracy thrives.
Ms Manuella Appiah, Co-founder of CiPED said the organisation would promote substance based democratic discourse, attain a change in perception among citizens, regarding morally acceptable rhetoric and produce policy relevant recommendations on positive political rhetoric.
She said it was important to create a momentum among citizens that verbal abuse in political discourse is unacceptable and must not be encouraged.
She said the movement would undertake public campaigns geared towards promoting diplomacy in political dialogues and empowering citizens to engage politicians to advance substance-based discourse.