A group of demonstrators calling itself Free Media Vanguard on Tuesday presented a petition to the National Communications Authority (NCA) to reopen all radio stations it has closed down across the country.
According to the group, the move by the NCA to close down some media houses was a deliberate attempt by the government to gag the media, especially those that were perceived to be associated with the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) that were critical of government actions.
The group presented the petition after marching through some streets of Accra to demonstrate their reservation about the NCA’s action.
The march was dubbed: “March for free expression”.
Some workers and supporters of some of the radio stations, the Minority in Parliament and some former ministers of state joined the march in solidarity with the group.
Speaker after speaker, after the demonstration, said the action was necessary to register their displeasure against what they described as an attempt by the government to suppress media freedom in the country.
They wore red and black outfits and armbands and carried placards bearing inscriptions such as: “bring back our voices”, “you can’t silence all of us, you will go down”, “Leave Adeti alone”, “Akufo-Addo, you are a threat to free speech”, “Ursula, stop remote-controlling NCA”, “Akufo-Addo, hands off press”, among others to reinforce their message.
Presenting the petition to the NCA, the convener of the group and morning show host of Radio XZY, Mr Prince Minka, appealed to the NCA to restore the broadcasting rights of all the radio stations it had closed down.
“We are humbly petitioning you for the purpose of giving practical effect to the constitutionally guaranteed rights of free expression and a free, independent and pluralistic media unreservedly. I know you are doing your best, but we need you to do more. We need you to apply the law with wisdom by weighing the options,” he said.
Mr Minka also bemoaned the rising spate of attacks and threats on journalists and media houses, citing a number of instances.
“We are worried about the suppression of media freedom in this country. We are worried about the stories of the Ahmed Suales, the Manasseh Azures, the Anases and the Edward Adetis. This is a country that, once upon a time, was celebrated across the length and breadth of the world as far as media freedom is concerned. But now we are counted among the worst countries in this regard,” he added.
Mr Minka advised the NCA to be steadfast in its dealings and not allow itself “to be manipulated by the political authority”.
“Apply the law just as Solomon did in the Bible. You can use the law to suppress and destroy, just as Adolf Hitler and others did, but you should not go down in history as one of those, all in the name of law,” he prayed.
He gave the NCA a week’s ultimatum to do the needful or face more of such actions.
The Deputy Director General in charge of Managerial Operations of the NCA, Mrs Olivia Quartey, received the petition on behalf of the NCA and thanked the group for presenting its grievances.
The NCA, on Thursday, May 9, this year, shut down two Accra-based radio stations believed to be sympathetic to the NDC — Radio Gold and Radio XYZ.
Officials of the NCA stormed the premises of the stations with armed security personnel while they were on air broadcasting a press conference by the Council of Elders of the NDC to order their immediate closure.
Consequently, both stations went off air around midday as an enforcement action following a decision of the Electronic Communications Tribunal, the NCA said.
Other affected pro-opposition radio stationsinclude Nananom FM, Genesis FM and Sekpele FM.
Meanwhile, a Sunyani-based radio station, Space FM, said to be sympathetic to the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), was also shut down last Wednesday.
In a statement on May 15, 2019, the NCA announced that some 41 radio stations had been closed down as of May 10, 2019 and cautioned that it would close down more stations.
It explained that the move followed the judgement of the Electronic Communications Tribunal against offending stations.
“The NCA will complete the shutdown of FM radio stations operating with expired frequency authorisations within four weeks.
“As of the end of 10th May, 2019, 41 FM radio stations operating with expired authorisations, as determined by the spectrum audit, had been closed down. These include nine that were closed down last week.
“More stations are to be closed down before the exercise is completed at the end of the four-week period,” the statement said.
Some of the protestors who spoke to the Daily Graphic expressed their dissatisfaction with the unfolding events and called on President Akufo-Addo to step in and immediately make his position known on the matter.
The Chief Executive Officer of Radio Gold, Mr James Agyenim-Boateng, said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that this government is unaccommodating of views that are unpleasant to it and that certainly does not help our democracy.”
For his part, the NDC MP for North Tongu, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, urged Ghanaians to be unwavering in their fight against media suppression.