Opinions Wed, 3 Jan 2018

Is the Electronic Act powerful than the 1992 Constitution?

The Electronic Communication Act 2008 (Act 775) is really in a serious wrestling with the 1992 Constitution that gives freedom and independence to the mass communication media.

The entire powers lie in the hand of the Constitution that protects the right of the people, but it seems government, over the years, has been trying to suppress the mouthpiece of the citizenry, which is the media.

Everybody is quiet, including senior journalists and the numerous lawyers and judges we have in the nation. The NCA is taking over the constitution and no one is bold enough to challenge the parliament in court about this act of the NCA.

It is stated in article one (1), section two (2) of the 1992 Constitution that ‘this constitution shall be the supreme law of Ghana and any other law found to be inconsistent with any provision of this constitution shall, to the extent be void’.

The Electronic Act 2008 (Act 775) section two (2), that gives the National Communication Authority (NCA) the mandate to regulate the radio spectrum has already superseded the 1992 Constitution, which has given freedom and independence to the press and the mass media. And everybody is quiet, thinking it is right. Everybody is ignorant of the fact that the three points stated by the Electronic Communication Act 2008 (Act 775) section 2 are undermining the power of the 1992 Constitution, which is the Supreme law of the nation.

Section two (2) of the Electronic Communication Act 2008 (Act 775) states that the authority;

*” shall regulate the radio spectrum designated or allocated for use by the broadcasting services.

* determine the technical and the other standards and issues guidelines of the operation of the broadcasting organization.

*may adopt policies to cater for the rural communities and for the this purpose may waive fees wholly or in part for the grant of a frequency authorization

All the scholars in our country have kept mute on this issue and the nation is going astray.

Article 162 (1) to (3) grants the full freedom and the independence of the press and the mass media but every government is trying to suppress the power of the Constitution through the so-called Electronic Act, which was authorized by through the mighty 1992 Constitution.

Article 162 (1) to (3) states

1. Freedom and independence of the press is hereby guaranteed.

2 subject to this constitution and any other law not inconsistent with this constitution, there shall be no censorship in Ghana.

3 there shall be no impediment to the establishment of a private press or media and in particular, there shall be no law requiring any person to obtain license as a prerequisite to the establishment or operation of a newspaper, journal or other media communication or information.

Are we in the military regime that one cannot express his or her opinion freely? Where are our top journalists and the learned lawyers? Or they are all protecting their jobs to see this supreme Constitution suppressed the government? So pathetic! The journalist is protecting his or her job; the lawyers protecting their jobs; all opinion leaders are protecting their jobs, leaving the Constitution to be demeaned by an Act which was given power by the same Constitution.

Where are GJA, GIBA and the Mighty NMC, who have been given the mandate to see and regulate the freedom and independence of the media? Is the NMC functioning? The National Media Commission should take up their responsibilities within 30 working days or I shall be in the Supreme Court to seek for interpretation of article 162.

Dr Wereko Brobbey’s Radio Eye was shut down and his equipment confiscated. He was in court but the court threw his case away. Many Ghanaians made noise during that period. He was having the constitutional right by then, but the judiciary, from which all citizens seek the defense of their rights couldn’t save him. Is this not the same thing we are seeing today, with the NCA which has become an impediment on the rights of the media and sanctioning stations, which the Constitution has given the right to operate without any prerequisite?

All journalists are afraid to talk about this or challenge the Electronic Act, but mind you, without the freedom of the broadcasting organization, journalists are nothing. If your station is being closed down by this NCA, what platform will you speak through? How on this earth can the NCA give amnesty to radio stations which the Constitution has given the right to operate.

Section two (2) of the 2008 Electronic Act (Act 775) is totally conflicting with the 1992 Constitution’s Act 162 (1) to (3). Very soon the NCA will overtake articles 172 and 173, which is the power of individual journalists. I have been personally listening to many parliamentarians and they speak of this NCA action but they were the same people who passed the law. Are we safe as journalists? The constitution is clear - no radio station needs license to operate.

What kind of intimidation is this? Before you establish a media house, you have to register your company at the Register Generals’ department, then to NCA again? Why is government not setting up other departments to regulate the operation of other companies too? Why only the media? All governments are afraid of the media because they know the power we have. They know if the public get the power, they will surely destroy their evil deeds. I think the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution and the Electronic Act for Ghanaians

The media have no future in the hands of the NCA and their so-called acts.
Columnist: Justice Addai