A professor of Political Science at the University of Ghana, Ransford Gyampo, has urged the National Media Commission to be circumspect in handling the issue involving Onua TV/FM.
He said the posturing of the National Media Commission in respect of the issue does not augur well for Ghana’s democratic credentials.
“My candid view is that in a country that is climbing higher the ladder of democratic progression, when there are issues of this nature which even relate to infractions of the law by media practitioners, one addresses the issues with circumspection,” he said.
Prof Gyampo said this in an interview on TV3’s News 360 on November 29, 2023.
His comment was in connection with a threat by the National Media Commission to have the frequency authorization of Onua TV/FM suspended.
Article 167 of the 1992 Constitution prescribes the Commission’s functions to include; “to promote and ensure the freedom and independence of the media for mass communication or information and to insulate the state-owned media from governmental control.”
He noted that the manner in which the NMC is handling the case smacks of attempt to gag the two stations.
“So that you don’t look like you are trying to gag the media. My view is that regardless of whatever may have taken place… it is not in the place of the national media commission to be issuing threats here and there,” the Political Science Lecturer advised.
He added though, that media freedom is not a license to “media tyranny.”
In a related development, a Constitutional Lawyer, Professor Stephen Kwaku Asare, popularly known as Kwaku Azar, has criticized the National Media Commission for threatening to shut down the operations of Onua TV/FM.
On Tuesday 14 November, 2023, the National Media Commission (NMC) wrote to Media General, owners of Onua TV/FM, complaining of a broadcast simultaneously carried by the two media outlets.
In the same letter, the NMC imposed sanctions on the two stations without asking for their side of the story. Subsequently, the NMC wrote to the Advertisers Association of Ghana, threatening to suspend the frequency authorization of Onua TV/FM.
Commenting on the issue on Facebook on November 29, 2023, Prof. Asare, who is also a fellow at the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana, wrote, “NMC- Your job is to protect the media from being shut down, not to shut them down.”
– 3News – First In News | Ghana News Updates
The Facebook post by Kwaku Azar
On Tuesday 14 November 2023, Media General received a letter from the NMC which was wrongly directed. The letter complained of a broadcast simultaneously carried by Onua FM and Onua TV. In the same letter the NMC imposed sanctions on the two stations without asking for their side of the story.
National Media Commission GHANA – 3News – First In News | Ghana News Updates
In response to the letter, the Company drew the attention of the Executive Secretary Mr George Sarpong, to the error and also stated that the stations should be given an opportunity to be heard as is required by the procedures of the National Media Commission’s own Complaints Settlement Committee. But Mr George Sarpong has refused to give the stations the opportunity to be heard and has also not named any complainant.
Meanwhile he has threatened to have the frequency authorisations of the two stations suspended among other illegal actions.
Media General finds the actions and posture of the Executive Secretary arbitrary, unconstitutional and against the principles of natural justice and, therefore, filed a case in court to stop the Commission from further harassing the two stations. The Company states in the suit that the Media Commission by its actions has constituted itself into a complainant, a prosecutor and a judge in complaint and from its actions cannot now be trusted to be a fair and impartial arbiter in any case against OnuaTV/OnuaFM.
The NMC Executive Secretary without any complaints or invitation to OnuaTV/OnuaFM decided to be the complainant and the prosecutor and the Judge and passed a judgement. The Media General Group’s Board vehemently rejected the NMC’s actions in letters to NMC dated 21st November 2023 and 27th November 2023(attached).
In reaction, the Executive Secretary said he was going to have the frequencies of the two stations suspended and also secretly wrote to the Advertisers Association of Ghana on this veiled threat.
It must be made clear that the NMC does not have the power to influence editors nor to suspend frequencies of media houses. If this is allowed to happen it will be a serious threat to media operations in the country as the Commission can take steps to arbitrarily withdraw any broadcaster’s authorization without giving them a hearing if the Executive Secretary in his personal view does not like one presenter or the other to be on air.
If this behavior is allowed, it could destroy the business of media houses by getting advertisers to stop advertising on their media just because the Executive Secretary with Political views does not like a media house or a presenter especially in election seasons.
As a leading Media company, Media General and its subsidiaries Onua TV and Onua FM are ready to cooperate with the National Media Commission to achieve the highest standards in media practice. But it will not allow itself to be intimidated and shall take all steps to protect its business and editorial independence, including actions from the National Media Commission, which appear to be politically motivated.
We have accordingly initiated the legal action against NMC to prevent them from these illegal and frankly unconstitutional activities. We urge media houses and members of the public to rise up against this blatant abuse of office else we lose the democracy and the right to free speech for good.
Head, Corporate Communications Department, OnuaTV/OnuaFM