After Recording Low Press Freedom Rate, Exiled Journalists and Boycotting Media Platforms
The Akufo-Addo government’s intolerance, yesterday reached a crescendo with the closure of two prominent radio stations, Radio XYZ and Radio Gold by officials of the National Communications Authority (NCA) under the Ministry of Communication led by Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ablekuma West.
The incident carried out with heavily-armed police officers, occurred at the time, Radio XYZ, was transmitting live the opposition NDC’s press conference addressed by the Council of Elders at the party headquarters in Accra.
Interestingly, the shutdown comes at a time Ghana, is fast eroding it enviable record in press freedom, following attacks on journalists, one of which ended in the gruesome assassination of Tiger Eye PI’s investigative journalist, Ahmed Husein Saule.
Some other journalists are currently living in fear with one of them Manasseh Azure Awuni, said to have left the country and hiding in a safe country over the past few months.
It also comes at a time, when government has boycotted some notable radio stations in the country and also filed complaints at the National Media Commission (NMC) of reports that the government has allowed a pro-government militia group to operate in the Osu Castle.
The militia group called De Eye led by a former bodyguard of President Akufo-Addo, has since sued the Manasseh Azure Awuni and the Multimedia Group Limited owners of Joy FM and Joy TV, Joy Prime, Adom FM, Adom TV among others.
Meanwhile, some party activists, said the action by the NCA was politically motivated, but the NCA said the shutdown was because the two private broadcasters had failed to renew their operating licenses after their expiration.
Programmes Manager for Radio Gold, Richard Agyepong, in an interview with the Accra-based Citi FM described the action as “unacceptable,” expressing disagreement with the NCA that the station’s license had been revoked since 1995.
But the NCA in a press statement explained that “Radio stations (were) operating without valid authorisations as determined by the 2017 FM Broadcasting Audit are being shut down with immediate effect as enforcement action in view of the decision of the Electronic Communications Tribunal.”
The NCA press statement appeared well prepared ahead of the shutdown obviously to defuse any backlash from the public, media watchers and civil society organizations.
According to the latest ranking in the World Press Freedom Index, Ghana dropped four points moving from the previous 23 to 27 this year.
It also lost its status as Africa’s best ranked country in the World Press Freedom Index (WPFI), compiled annually by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) which evaluates the state of journalism in 180 countries.
The release of the Index forms part of the annual World Press Freedom Day which was celebrated across the world last Friday. It was themed: “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Election in times of Disinformation”.
This comes at a time a journalist working with Starr FM, last week revealed that his life is in danger after he exposed a Minister of State, RocksonBukari for attempted bribery leading to the Minister’s resignation.
Edward Adeti, reports that he has been receiving threatening messages some of which have been forwarded to the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI). The frightened Upper East Regional correspondent’s Bolgatanga home was also broken into last week at a time he and his family had left the house.
Ranking Member on Foreign Affairs, Samuel OkudzetoAblakwa, in statement on the floor of Parliament, noted that this latest ranking demands sober reflection from all.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) lawmaker also stated that Ghana has come too far as a country to have any threshold of tolerance whatsoever for reports such as police brutalities meted out to journalists.
He cited incidents of Police violence against three Ghanaian Times journalists, that of Latif Iddrisu of Joy FM, as well as Victor Kwakume and Timothy Gobah all of the Daily Graphic.
He said, Parliament must send a clear message to all that, the nation would not countenance any abuse or attack whatsoever on journalists carrying out their legitimate duties.
“We must send a clear message to all that this nation would not countenance any abuse or attack whatsoever on journalists carrying out their legitimate duties,” he added. MrAblakwa also asked Ghanaians to reflect on the dangers posed by disinformation as a product of toxic mix of abuse of technology, violation of data privacy, interference by rogue external elements, often with the active collaboration of unscrupulous insider actors.
Speaking on the back of the World Press Freedom Day,” the Dean of the School of Communication, University of Ghana, Legon Prof. Audrey Gadzekpo urged the media to go beyond giving visibility to the issues and the political actors advancing them.
The media should “help us make sense of what they(politicians) are saying, helping us to know if they are making false claims, making sure that the people are helped to understand the issues,” she charged.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that, Multi-media journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni into over the past few months been forced out of the country.It comes on the back of Saule’s murder by some unknown men.
Manasseh’s woes stem from a documentary he premiered in March which alleged the recruitment and training of militia group, at former seat of government, the Castle, Osu, implicating government.
According to former Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) Prof. Kwame Karikari, since the airing of the documentary, Manasseh, has known no peace as he been receiving threatening messages on his life.
Prof Karikari who said this during a programme to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day last Friday said the frightening situation initially led to the relocation ofManasseh from his former place of abode.
The experienced Professor went on to say that, the award winning journalist was also given police protection to ensure that nothing untoward happened to him.
Though Multi-media has been quiet about the issue, Prof. Karikari revealed that, the last resort was for Manasseh to be moved out of the country for his safety.
On the blind side of many Ghanaians, Manasseh, for some time now has been quiet from both traditional and social media platforms.
He is never hard on air, neither does he write for his regular “Manasseh Folder” blog where he tackles everybody including the president. Until his recent showing at IMANI-Africa’s press conference on Aker Energy, he had not been heard since the incident.
On his facebook page for instance where he posts and generates hundreds of comments, The Herald check indicates that the last time he posted there was in March, the same month the documentary was aired.
Before this disclosure by Prof. Karikari, government and the NPP has unofficially boycotted two multi-media outlets, Joy FM and Joy News channel.
Since the time the documentary was aired, government has refused to attend shows on these platforms though according to News File’s Samson LardiAnyinene, no reason has been assigned to their boycott.
Touching on the issue briefing on News File on Saturday, Editor in chief of the New Crusading Guide, KwekuBaako called the boycott as “cowardy”. According to the veteran journalist, even though in the past parties and governments did same; he did not expect it from the NPP.
“I pray it’s not official otherwise it’s cowardy and unstrategic and I did not expect that to come from the NPP. We have had a situation where parties and governments have boycotted this station before, I remember Amina bus story but I did not expect it to come from the NPP. That was a courageous one that is why I am saying that is cowardy and if there is any such strategy or policy, I am appealing to government and party to review it”, Baako said.
The documentary which was disputed by government and it communicators appears to have embarrassed and dinted the image of government badly, has led to the dragging of Multi-media to the National Media Commission (NMC) for redress. The busted company, “De Eye” has also sued Multi-media for damages.
Below is the full statement from the NCA to justify the shutdown of the two radio stations
NCA is Shutting Down Unauthorized Radio Stations in Compliance with Ruling Of ECT
Radio stations operating without valid authorisations as determined by the 2017 FM Broadcasting Audit are being shut down with immediate effect as enforcement action in view of the decision of the Electronic Communications Tribunal.
Following the FM Spectrum Audit in 2017, some stations were found to be in default and were fined by the Authority. However, some of the stations in default were not satisfied and proceeded to the various courts; Electronic Communications Tribunal (ECT) and the High Court to appeal against the NCA’s decision.
This resulted in a decision by the ECT in 2018 which reviewed the status of expired FM Radio Broadcasting Authorisations and which ruled among others that Companies whose authorisations had expired reverted to the same position as a fresh applicant. While some stations shut down following this decision, others did not.
To this end, and in line with Regulations 65 (1) of the Electronic Communications Regulations, 2011, L. I. 1991, which states that “A person shall not use a radio frequency without authorisation from the Authority” the National Communications Authority (NCA) is enforcing the shutdown of FM radio stations who are operating without authorisation.
It should be noted that, as ruled by the ECT, submission of renewal application after expiry of authorisation is not a valid application and therefore shall not be considered by the Authority.
While companies affected by this shut down may submit fresh applications to the Authority if they so wish, these applications shall go through the required procedure for new FM Broadcasting Authorisation and the outcome will be communicated to the applicants.
The general public is also informed that entities are only authorised to use frequencies for a specific duration or period. Frequencies are national assets and not the properties of users as they are not assigned to users in perpetuity.
The Authority takes this opportunity to encourage all licence and authorisation holders to ensure compliance with the various terms of their licences and authorisations, and as well the relevant regulations.
Issued by the National Communications Authority