Ningo Prampram legislator, Samuel Nartey George, is demanding that the Akufo-Addo government reverses the shutdown of radio stations across the country.
He also wants an expedited investigation and prosecution of the killers of investigative journalist Ahmed Suale, an end to state intimidation and assault of journalists.
The vociferous MP is also asking of government to ensure there is a level playing field for all shades of opinion in the country be they political, religious or ethnic.
These demands catalogued these in his article marking World Radio Day, he said are in compliance with the constitutional provision of freedom of speech.
“The World Press Freedom Index and the abysmal performance of Ghana over the past three years in the rankings is the clearest indication that the media space and its handling by government is beset with a growing canker that needs to be curtailed expeditiously,” he said.
Read his article below:
STATEMENT ON THE OCCASION OF WORLD RADIO DAY
"The only security of all is in a free press."
These words spoken over two centuries ago by the 3rd President of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson, resound even more poignantly today, the 13th of February 2020 as the world celebrates World Radio Day. The main purpose of celebrating World Radio Day is to spread awareness among the public and the media to raise the importance of radio. It also encourages decision-makers to establish and provide access to information through radio, enhance networking and generate a sort of international cooperation among the broadcasters.
The 36th session of UNESCO's General Conference proclaimed 13 February as World Radio Day. The United Nations General Assembly formally endorsed UNESCO's proclamation of World Radio Day on 14 January 2013. In the 67th session of the UN General Assembly, a resolution was adopted for proclaiming 13 February as World Radio Day. This day has been celebrated worldwide since as a milestone for the freedom of thoughts and expressions on the airwaves. This year's theme is “Radio and Diversity”. The theme focuses on diversity and plural lingualism. It is an important medium to celebrate humanity in all its diversity and provides a platform for democratic discourse.
It is noteworthy that the Ministry of Information and Media Relations, as well as the Ministry of Communications and the National Media Commission, have not made this day a national event with great prominence in the Republic. The Constitution recognizes the role of the media and goes ahead to ensure their freedoms and independence are etched in ink in Chapter 12 of the 1992 Constitution. The state of radio and media freedoms generally in Ghana today is a sharp departure from the glory days of media freedoms enjoyed under the 4th Republican dispensation.
Radio stations have been arbitrarily shut down and continue to be shut down. The most recent as far as I am aware barely a week ago. The reason being an unexplained threat to national security by the National Communications Authority. The attempt to hide behind Article 164 of the Constitution without necessarily establishing what credible threat exists is an abuse of the Constitution by the regulator.
The sad cases of Radio Gold, Montie FM and Radio XYZ and others readily come to mind. A total of 131 radio stations shut down in the less than four years of this administration. Radio stations deemed and perceived by those at the helm of affairs today to be pro-opposition and so shut down with impunity. Hundreds of workers rendered jobless and destitute. This certainly flies in the face of the theme for this year's celebration. When diversity in radio is frowned upon by those in power, they seek to perpetuate a silent and subservient media that serve their whims and caprices for fear of closure and reprimand.
And this phenomenon we have seen on display today. We have seen the brutal murder of an investigative journalist. We have seen the resignation of a number of high profile journalists and their departure into private corporate communications instead. We have seen journalists flee the country and go into hiding for fear of their lives. All of these in a Country that until 2017 sat atop all global rankings for press freedoms and was a shining beacon of hope on the African continent for media pluralism and tolerance.
Reporters without Borders succinctly captured the sad state of radio and journalism as a whole when the report as follows on Ghana;
"Ghana has lost its status as Africa’s best-ranked country in the World Press Freedom Index. A group of investigative journalists had to spend part of 2018 in hiding after producing a documentary about Ghanaian soccer corruption. A ruling party parliamentarian who had been named in the documentary publicly threatened one of the journalists without ever being sanctioned.
“The journalist was shot dead in the street a few months later. Journalists are rarely arrested but several were attacked with impunity in 2018, in some cases by police officers. Although Ghana continues to be seen as one of the most democratic countries in Africa and Chapter 12 of its 1992 constitution guarantees media pluralism and independence, a third of the media are owned by the state or by businessmen linked to the government." (https://rsf.org/en/ghana)
The media themselves have a role to play in protecting the freedoms bestowed on them by the Constitution. Editorial policy need not be neutral but it by all standards ought to be fair. When media houses and radio show hosts appear to be biased even in the reportage of facts, the media themselves contribute to the erosion of trust by the public and create a conducive environment for hawkish elements in government to hijack the media and deprive them of their freedoms. The media should never be for sale to the highest bidder. Radio must seek to project the truth no matter whose ox is gored and the standards must be the same across all divides.
As we mark World Radio Day, may we retrace our steps and accept and celebrate diversity. For in diversity lies our collective strength. My wish today would be to see the reversal of the shutdown of radio stations across the country, an expedited investigation and prosecution of the killers of Ahmed Suale, an end to State intimidation and assault of journalists and a level playing field for all shades of opinion in the country be they political, religious or ethnic.
The World Press Freedom Index and the abysmal performance of Ghana over the past three years in the rankings is the clearest indication that the media space and its handling by government is beset with a growing canker that needs to be curtailed expeditiously. In the words of a leading Clergyman in the Republic, there appears to be a sinister force of the prowl. The earlier we all collectively rise against it, the better it would be for us all.
GOD bless our Homeland Ghana and make her great and strong.
SAMUEL NARTEY GEORGE (MP)
(Member, Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications)