I have heard the Minister of Communication say that the Closure of Radio Gold and Radio XYZ at a time they were carrying live transmission of the opposition NDC’s press Conference has nothing to do with press freedom. I was curious and went back to the laws that guarantee Press freedom and my revelations were stunning. I think the Minister has a new definition of Press freedom. Where the two radio stations have demonstrated that following the NMC tribunals ruling, they made countless efforts to renew their licenses and the NMC simply refused, is that not in itself a violation of PRESS FREEDOM?
Press freedom is a fundamental pillar in every democracy. It hinges on the principle that communication and expression through various media, including print and electronic media, especially published materials, should be considered a right to be exercised freely without any interferences. It implies the absence of interference from an overbearing state or its agents.
Article 62 of the 1992 Constitution provides that “Freedom and independence of the media are hereby guaranteed”. It is provided further that “there shall be no impediments to the establishment of private press or media; and in particular, there shall be no law requiring any person to obtain a license as a prerequisite to the establishment or operation of a newspaper, journal or other media for mass communication or information.” The current practice of closing media houses down because of alleged expired license is unconstitutional and unlawful. Any such provision in the National Communications Authority Act, 2008(Act 769) is unconstitutional and illegal.
Reasons for Media Freedom and Independence:
The media is very critical to the development and protection of our democratic status. That is why the media is considered to be the 4th estate of the realm. The core mandate of a free and independent media includes upholding of the constitution and holding government accountable on behalf of the people. This is why the Constitution did not put any fetter on operation of mass media. The Constitution is clear. One does not need a license to operate a mass media.The key reason for the freedom and independence of the press as provided in Article 62(5) is “All agencies of the mass media shall, at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this Constitution, and shall uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of Ghana”. The language of the constitution is “shall”. It is mandatory that government is held accountable by the media as their core function.
The NCA is supposed to be independent and it is supposed to work with media houses to ensure their independence whist regulating their professional standards. The NCA cannot take away press freedom. It has a duty to promote and uphold. NCA’s action clearly violates the letter and spirit of the 1992 Constitution.
Clearly the action of Closure of Radio Gold and Radio XYZ at a time they had made several efforts to engage the NCA for renewal of their licensee to no avail smack of serious prejudice, discrimination and the continues and deliberate attempt not to renew their license breaches Article 296 that regulates how discretionary powers must be used by public officials.