GJA: Media ownership structure in Ghana a threat to democracy

The GJA president, Affail Monney, says that, looking at the actors who own media houses in Ghana, it seems our democracy is at risk

The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has described the current state of media ownership as the biggest threat to the country’s democracy.

The association’s comment comes a day after the National Communications Authority (NCA) said it had approved new radio licence applications by Radio Gold, Radio XYZ and over a hundred others.

Speaking on The Asaase Breakfast Show on Wednesday (13 October), the president of the GJA, Affail Monney, called for a national dialogue to address the matter urgently.

“Yesteryear, the greatest danger to media freedom and journalists was enveloped in the so-called culture of silence, when it was hellish to practise journalism. Those were the years that we had the criminal libel law; those were the years when freedom was a luxury and the number-one enemy was the government,” the GJA chief recalled.

Monney added: “Now the greatest threat to media freedom is the ownership structure. Ownership confers power on certain people, certain political classes and people … and this comes with a lot of challenges.

“So I think we need to as a nation confront this issue and see how we can clear this hurdle, which is a threat not to only media freedom but also [to] advocacy.”

Listen to excerpts from Affail Monney’s interview on The ABS:

NCA approval

As first scooped by Asaase Radio, the NCA has confirmed that its newly inaugurated governing board, under the leadership of Isaac Emmil Osei-Bonsu, has approved new licence applications by Radio Gold, Radio XYZ and over one hundred others.

The Akufo-Addo government took obvious steps from 2017 onwards to enforce NCA rules and regulations. Radio Gold and Radio XYZ, two stations largely aligned with the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), were closed, as were more than 50 others.

Most of these stations had refused for years to pay their operating licence fees and had flouted other obligations in line with their licences.

However, the opposition NDC and others saw the decision as discriminatory and questioned the governing party’s commitment to press freedom.

In 2017 the NCA insisted that freedom is best protected when the rules of the game are respected by its key players. The Authority defended the closures as being “in line with Regulations 65(1) of the Electronic Communications Regulations 2011 (LI 1991)”, which state that “a person shall not use a radio frequency without authorisation from the Authority”.

The NCA argued that it was merely enforcing its legitimate powers by shutting down FM radio stations that were operating without authorisation.

Licence approvals

According to an NCA press release dated 12 October 2021, the governing board approved the applications at its meeting on 11 October.

Fresh applications from FM radio stations that were closed down after the 2017 FM audit, such as Radio Gold and Radio XYZ, as well as existing stations which applied for renewal of expired FM radio broadcasting authorisations, are among the provisional operating licences that have been granted.

“This approval from the board is subject to the applicants attending a sensitisation workshop on the terms and conditions of FM radio broadcasting authorisations. The workshop shall clarify the legal, regulatory and technical requirements for the establishment and operation of an FM radio broadcasting station,” the NCA press release said.

“Provisional authorisations shall be issued to the successful applicants at the end of the workshop and frequencies shall be assigned to the applicants only upon the fulfilment of the conditions of the provisional authorisation,” the NCA release further noted.

Governing board

The governing board of the National Communications Authority, chaired by Isaac Emmil Osei-Bonsu, the senior partner of the legal firm Minkah-Premo & Co, assumed office on 4 October 2021.

The Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, swore the new board into office at the Authority’s headquarters in Accra.

The members of the board are Isaac Emmil Osei-Bonsu (chairman), Joe Anokye (director general of the NCA), Kwabena Adu BoaheneAlexander Nii KateyAma Pomaa Boateng (MP for Juaben), Patrick Boateng, Dr Eugene Owusu and Ama Daaku.

The ninth member is yet to be named.

Fred Dzakpata

Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online
Follow us on Twitter: @asaaseradio995

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