World Press Freedom Day: Mahama condemns closure of radio stations

Former president decries “dictatorial withdrawal” of spectrum frequencies and reads politics into government action

Former president John Dramani Mahama has criticised the Akufo-Addo government over the closure of certain radio stations in the country.

In a statement marking World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, he said all Ghanaians must unite to condemn the closure of the radio stations.

Mahama further described as “dictatorial” the closures by the New Patriotic Party government.

“Let us rise up and speak against the dictatorial withdrawal of radio frequencies and closure of radio stations by the government of Nana Akufo-Addo,” he urged.

“We should be worried”

Mahama said it is worrying that Ghanaian media performance has slipped in recent years.

This follows a 2019 ranking by Reporters Without Borders in which Ghana lost its spot as one of the highest-ranked countries for press freedom.

Mahama claimed it was under President Akufo-Addo’s tenure that the country had lost its top spot to the likes of Namibia and Cape Verde.

This, he said, should be a source of great worry to not only all journalists and media owners, but all citizens.

“We have unfortunately lost this priceless status that made all of us very proud. This should worry us – not only journalists and media owners but all of us, as citizens and as Ghanaians,” the former president said.

“. . . just as the press performs a civic service to all of us, we [Ghanaians] also have a civic duty towards it – namely, to always defend and be ready to fight for the freedom of the press.”

“Mahama lied”

A spokeswoman for the New Patriotic Party government later told reporters that the former president had misrepresented facts.

Throughout the period of the Mahama governments, Namibia held the top spot in Africa for media freedom from 2013 to 2016 and Ghana placed second or third, depending on Cape Verde’s performance. It was not until under President Akufo-Addo, in 2018, that Ghana became the country in Africa most highly regarded for its efforts to maintain press freedom, she said.

There is little change in this year’s findings on press freedom: Ghana ranks 30th out of 180 countries worldwide and third highest in Africa, coming behind Namibia (23rd) and Cape Verde (25th).

In May 2019 Radio XYZ and Radio Gold, two stations aligned with the opposition National Democratic Congress, were closed down.

The National Communications Authority (NCA) said both stations were operating on frequencies which had expired.

Quite recently, the NCA also shut down Radio Tongu in the Volta Region on grounds of national security.

E A Alanore

* Asaase Radio 99.5 FM. Coming to a dial near you.

* Twitter: @Asaase995FM

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