Ghana: Opposition slams 'draconian' penalties on Ghana radio stations

Accra, Ghana (PANA) - Ghana's main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) on Friday slammed the communications regulator for 'draconian' penalties, including closure, slapped on scores of radio stations, warning that they have grave implications for press freedom and media pluralism in the country.

The Minority in Parliament said it had learned with grave concern of the exercise by the National Communications Authority (NCA) under which selected media houses had been subjected to "very steep regulatory sanctions" and urged it, as a matter of urgency, to suspend the exercise and use dialogue and more flexible means to ensure compliance with relevant regulations.

The NCA slapped various sanctions on 131 radio stations, including hefty fines and revocation of licences, following a nationwide FM Spectrum Audit. It said on Friday that 34 radio stations had their licences revoked because their authorizations had expired and were therefore operating illegally.

The Minority in Parliament, in a statement signed by Alhaji A.B.A. Fuseini, Ranking Member, Communications Committee, said: "We are deeply troubled by this development which has grave implications for press freedom and media pluralism. These actions by the NCA threaten to roll back the gains made so far in entrenching a vibrant media culture.

"While we acknowledge the NCA’s right to regulate the communications sector in a manner that ensures compliance with appropriate regulations, we are alarmed by the sweeping and heavy-handed approach under the current exercise."

The Minority said in a situation where alleged breaches of regulations dating back several years are suddenly cited as basis for the near-summary closure of radio stations and humongous fines, posed a mortal danger to the expansion of the frontiers of free expression.

They stressed that radio had become a foremost means of expression by large sections of the citizenry since the liberalization of the airwaves at the beginning of the current democratic dispensation in 1992 and entities operating within that space therefore ought to be acknowledged for their invaluable contributions to the growth of democracy.

"Regulatory enforcement ought to be undertaken in a reasonable manner that factors in the fragilities inherent in the operations of many radio stations," the statement said.

"The current revocation and sanctions regime appears to be monetizing the right to free expression and could be construed as an effort to exact retribution particularly against stations that have traditionally been ideologically opposed to the current NPP (New Patriotic Party) administration."

The NCA's action, they warned, could also have a "deleterious impact" on jobs as an estimated 5,000 people working in the affected stations would be rendered jobless.

"This will only serve to worsen the precarious unemployment situation and add to the hardships Ghanaians are going through," they added.
-0- PANA MA 29Sept2017

29 Setembro 2017 16:41:36




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