General News of Sunday, 1 October 2017
The Media Foundation for West Africa has backed the move by National Communication Authority to sanction some 131 radio stations.
The Foundation insists freedom of speech must be practiced in an atmosphere of rules and regulations, law and order.
The NCA in statement dated September 28 issued its report on a broadcasting audit it conducted on radio stations across the country.
The Regulator sanctioned a total of 131 radio station for various infractions contained in Sections 13 of the Electronic Communications Act 2009.
At least 13 others were issued with reprieves pertaining to the law.
In line with the law, 21 of the FM Broadcasting stations have had their licenses completely revoked after they were deemed to be operating illegally, years after failing to renew their licenses and also failing to respond to the calls of the NCA.
A total of 13 others also had their stations completely revoked for failing to renew their licenses despite responding to the calls of the NCA.
The rest were slapped with fines ranging from ¢50,000.00 to ¢61,000,000.00 depending on the infraction and the duration the infraction persisted.
The action taken by the NCA has been condemned by some media practitioners and political parties, particularly the opposition National Democratic Congress.
The biggest opposition Party in a statement said whilst the NCA is clothed with the powers to take the decision it has taken, the action was high handed and an affront to press freedom.
But the Media Foundation for West Africa disagrees with the NDC position.
Its Executive Director Sulemana Braimah believes the possibility of the press being gagged doesn’t mean laws should not be enforced.
“Laws are made to ensure sanity in our society. And ones they are made, they are meant to be enforced and they are meant to be complied with
“What the NCA has done in my view is perhaps something that ought to have done on a routine basis, in which case we wouldn’t have seen this development as unique.”
Mr Braimah admitted the action by the NPA could have a crippling effect on the media landscape but was quick to add, a lawless, unregulated media is worse.
“Inasmuch the development has implications for the freedom of expression, for the employees of the affected media organisations we cannot say for that reason we should live in a media that is unregulated,” he said.
“We need a plural vibrant media environment but I think what can also be very dangerous to press freedom is an atmosphere that is unregulated and everyone does what it wants,” he argued.
The Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association is however concerned this could put some media organizations out of business.
President of the association, Andrew Danso-Aninkora believes it may be time for a review of how the fines for defaulting organizations are fixed per the law.
According to him, how the fees are set under the law have not been questioned.
He explained it is a lot more difficult if the arrears owed the NCA by a defaulting media organisation piles up.
Mr Andrew Danso-Aninkora called for better engagement by the stakeholders in order to resolve this challenge.