Ghana: Politics, workers' threat, Guantanamo detainees highlighted by Ghana media

Accra, Ghana (PANA) – The media in Ghana this week highlighted a variety of subjects, including political arguments between the two main parties over the voters' register, a threat by labour to “unleash” a series of actions if government does not reverse utility and fuel price increases and the arrival in Ghana of two former detainees at Guantanamo Bay freed by the US.

The media also covered brouhaha over a new law passed by Parliament that empowers the National Media Commission (NMC) to "sanitise the airwaves".

The week began with reactions to the decision of the Electoral Commission (EC) rejecting calls by the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) for a new voters’ register. A committee of eminent persons put together by the EC found the NPP's arguments unconvincing and therefore did not recommend a new register for the 2016 elections.

“Voters Register brouhaha: Mixed reactions greet EC’s decision,” was the headline of the state-owned Graphic on the issue.

The newspaper said various political parties had expressed mixed reactions to the decision by the EC to audit the voters’ register. While some of the parties supported the decision, others described it as shameful and stated that it proved that the EC had already taken a stand.

The NPP claims the current register is bloated by more than 2 million voters while there are some 76,000 people from Togo, Ghana’s eastern neighbour, on the register.

An Accra-based radio station, Joy FM, said on its website that a pro-NPP pressure group, Let My Vote Count Alliance (LMVCA), says it would turn to the courts to compel the EC to compile a new register.  

In a story under the headline “LMVCA mulls court action to force EC to compile new electoral roll” it quoted the national coordinator of the group, David Asante, as saying they were bent on pushing their demands until they heard “something favourable”.

The ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) has consistently dismissed demands of the NPP for a new register. It waded into the arguments on Wednesday by calling for the arrest of Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, the running mate of the NPP candidate, who addressed press conferences making various claims of ineligible people on the register.

The state-owned Ghanaian Times, in a story with the headline, “Arrest Bawumia” reported that the NDC General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketia told a press conference that the NPP “engaged in deliberate fabrication, distortion of public records, deceit of public officials in a desperate attempt to create make-believe stories to undermine our constitutional democracy” in respect to its claims that the country’s electoral roll lacked the credibility it needed as the base document for this year’s elections.

According to Mr. Asiedu Nketia, the NPP’s penchant for presenting false documents was manifested at the landmark election petition hearing in 2013 when the party “tended in falsified evidence and engaged in wilful deception” to force their interest on the electorate after they had lost the elections.

He said since the EC communicated its verdict on whether or not a new register was needed for the general elections, leading figures within the NPP had begun preaching violence and were threatening fire and brimstone raising the political tension.

The Graphic also had the headline, “NDC calls for arrest of Bawumia.” The newspaper said the Electoral Commission’s preliminary report suggested that Dr Bawumia “peddled falsehood” that had the potential to destabilize the nation.

However, the acting NPP general secretary John Boadu has called it a joke.

The Ghanaian Times reported that the 2012 presidential candidate of the small centre-left party, the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Dr Abu Sakara, has quit the party to contest the November 2016 election as an independent candidate.

“Sakara quits CPP, goes solo,” was the headline of the story. It said Dr. Abu Sakara Foster wrote, “The purpose will be to provide a more focused national interest platform on which we can truly build national consensus around the key issues that will really transform our nation for the good of all of us.”

The headline of the Graphic on the new broadcasting law read, “Radio stations risk closure if they fail to comply with Content Standards Regulations 2015.”|

The story said electronic media operators, such as radio and television stations, risked closure if they contravened a new Legislative Instrument (LI 2224) passed by Parliament to empower the NMC to sanitise the airwaves.

The law allows the NMC to establish and maintain standards in the distribution of the content of public electronic communication and broadcasting services.

It also empowers the NMC to grant content authorisation to an operator or revoke same, if an operator, comprising mainstream radio and television broadcasters, telecommunications operators or their agents, or any company that distributes electronic content, contravenes the regulations.

The Daily Graphic quoted the Executive Secretary of the NMC, Mr George Sarpong, as saying it was to ensure that distributors of content employed minimum standards in their work.

But as expected the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) has kicked against it.

“GIBA to sue NMC over Content Standards Regulations,” was the headline in the Graphic on the threat by the independent broadcasters.

The story said GIBA had described the new Legislative Instrument as a needless attempt to reintroduce the Criminal Libel Law through the backdoor.

It, therefore, vowed to seek interpretation of the law at the Supreme Court to determine “whether we are just crying foul for its sake or that we have a case”.

The Graphic in a story with the headline “Review price hikes or...” said organised labour had issued a one-week ultimatum to the government to reduce utility tariffs.

They have also asked the government to withdraw with immediate effect the Energy Sector Levies Act which has resulted in increases in the prices of petroleum products.

“Organised labour gives the government up to close of day on Wednesday 13 January 2016 to meet these demands. If these demands are not met by the said date, organised labour will unleash a series of nationwide actions,” it warned in a statement.

Graphic Online in a story with the headline “Syria, Yemen and Rwanda refugees provided humanitarian assistance in Ghana” reported that Ghana had provided assistance for the resettlement of a number of persons from Rwanda and Yemen.

In addition, taking cognizance of the grave humanitarian crises in the Middle East, the country has also decided to provide refuge to some displaced persons in Syria who already have relatives in Ghana.

Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Minister, Ms Hannah Serwaa Tetteh, said following a request by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to resettle some of the persons who had been tried and had either been acquitted and discharged or had been sentenced and had served their time but did not find it appropriate to resettle in Rwanda, Ghana had agreed to take two of such persons.

Again at the request of the US Government, “we have also agreed to accept two detainees of Yemeni origin who were detained in Guantanamo but who have been cleared of any involvement in any terrorist activities and are being released... we have indicated our readiness to accept them for a period of two years after which they may leave the country."

But several people have criticised the government for accepting the Guantanamo Bay detainees saying this could put the country on the radar of extremists.
-0- PANA MA 9Jan2016

09 january 2016 05:48:04

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