A former Minister of State at the Ministry of Education and Sports, Elizabeth Ohene, has said she was described as a subversionist because she expressed an opinion that was unpopular with a governing party.
“I don’t think anybody has called me a terrorist but maybe behind my back and I don’t know that, but I have been called a subversionist publicly,” the former BBC journalist told World Affairs’ Etse Sikanku on Class91.3FM on Friday 7 July.
She continued: “Of course I didn’t like what the government was doing and I didn’t think it should be in power. Yes, I said so, but I didn’t mean to be subversive.”
She was speaking in relation to the accusation against Doha-based news network Al Jazeera by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries of ties with terrorist groups.
A Saudi-led campaign against Qatar wants Al Jazeera closed down, but the network has already condemned the demand by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries, calling it “nothing short than a siege against the journalistic profession”.
Ms Ohene said she did not know “if these people being called terrorists are really terrorists”, adding that she is a bit hesitant in commenting on that but “I think I will defend the right to have plurality”.
“For that reason alone I think it is critical to have Al Jazeera operate,” she added.
She said Al Jazeera offers “multiplicity of opinion” and wishes it continue to operate because it offers “a different viewpoint or additional viewpoint to other international media on offer, and it will be a shame to lose that”.
Even though Ms Ohene condemns any form of terrorism or links to terrorism if such claims by Saudi Arabia were true, she insists: “Al Jazeera has been a thorn in the flesh of many of the Arab nations right from the day it was set up because you have to recognise that Al Jazeera was offering space for the kind of voices that you didn’t normally hear on radio or TV or newspaper.”
She said: “Suddenly people who are opposed to the government of Saudi Arabia or UAE or whatever were being interviewed on Al Jazeera and it is not surprising that the government didn’t like it because they were not used to that.”
She said if such voices were heard on the BBC or VOA, the Saudis would accept that it is the Western media doing what they are known for, but to have their own people who speak their own language, understand their culture and conduct to offer such content on their broadcast channels is a worry to them.
For her, the diversity of journalism provided by Al Jazeera is apt and should be allowed to continue its operations.