The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) is against the National Communications Authority’s sanctioning of 131 radio stations for various offenses, including operating with expired licenses.The Association’s President, Roland Affail Monney, intimated that the Kweku Sekyi-Addo-chaired NCA, was essentially hounding some of the affected companies out of business.
34 of the sanctioned stations, had their licenses revoked because their authorizations had expired and were operating illegally.
Other affected stations have been fined and given 30 days to settle their indebtedness. Radio Gold and Atlantis Radio picked up the heftiest fines with GH¢61,330,000 and GH¢60,350,000 respectively.
Many have been left in shock over the matter, especially with the loss of jobs and what some suspect is a deliberate attack on the media houses critical of the Akufo-Addo government.
Some feel Kweku Sekyi-Addo, an ace broadcast journalist and believer of Press Freedom, must not be superintending over the closures of the radio stations, but apply human face in collecting sums owed the NCA, led by Joe Anokye.
In all, the fines build up to about GH¢1.18 billion for stations cutting across all regions of the country.
The sanctions, have been criticized as being too harsh by the Minority in Parliament, claiming that they amount is an attempt to monetize freedom of expression.
Mr. Monney, who was speaking a day after he was re-elected at the GJA elections on The Big Issue, said dealing with the NCA’s sanctions was “one major assignment our new administration is going to tackle with urgent promptitude.”
“… We have a responsibility to rally to the defense of our members and even non-members when they find themselves in such unfortunate situations.”
In this regard, the GJA, is speaking with lawyers and a legal team “to put out a proposal and defence to help address this issue, so we have agreed that by Monday, we’ll make our voice heard on this matter.”
“We are against any attempt to hound any media house or any media practitioner out of operations through the imposition of fines or any other means. It is something we frown upon and something we shall resist,” the GJA President asserted.
“I believe this is something we can dialogue with the NCA in order to ensure that those media houses that are affected will have the freedom to operate once again,” he added.
Meanwhile, a Deputy National Communications Officer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Fred Agbenyo, suspects the NCA’s may be trying to gag anti-Government radio stations with its recent “draconian” sanctions.
He echoed the NDC Minority in Parliament’s fears that the NCA’s decision to clamp down on 131 radio stations operating illegally or with expired licenses is an attack on press freedom.
Mr. Agbenyo said the NDC was not against the efforts to maintain law and order, but the NCA may have gone too far in this regard.
“What we are talking about is so serious and anybody who believes in free speech and anybody who believes it is entrenched in our democracy, anybody who believes in creating an environment for Ghanaians to express themselves will be concerned that what the NCA is doing now is a dangerous attempt that could curtail that particular free speech.”
As a suggestion, Mr. Agbenyo said the NCA could negotiate with the sanctioned companies and agree on flexible payment terms.
“…It must not come across as though the NCA wants to collapse the institutions that are helping all of us and helping to broaden the frontiers of our democracy.”
He said the fines were “a subtle way of [the NCA] telling them; we don’t want you to operate again” and noted further that the list of the media houses in question contained stations that were “somehow anti-NPP.”
“… it is obvious and clear, and you can see that they are targeting particular media houses. Otherwise, how can the NCA sit down for all these years? If you claim that somebody has not renewed their license for the past four or five years, what were you doing all these years?”
Mr. Agbenyo maintained that the NCA’s approach to the sanctions was wrong, and warned that NDC was not going to sit back and let the matter slide because “if genuinely, it is not a case they want to victimize because they disagree with their content and editorial policies, there is a much better way the NCA could have gone about this issue than the approach they are using.”
“If we get the conviction that it is an attempt to gag radio stations or media houses that somehow are aligned to us [the NDC], of course, we will not sit back and look at them do whatever they want to do.”