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Opinions Wed, 25 Oct 2017

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The threat to media freedom under Akufo-Addo’s Presidency

The Akufo Addo Government is gradually establishing a reputation as the government most intolerant of media freedom in Ghana since the inception of the Fourth Republic.

This is evidenced by the high handed strategy and approach it has adopted to deal with radio stations that it perceives as being independent of government control through the National Communications Authority (NCA) and the Ministry of Communications.

These two government institutions headed by staunch members of the ruling New Patriotic Party have embarked on an agenda to silence independent and critical radio stations in Ghana through draconian application of media regulations;and through the imposition of arbitrary and excessive fines.

The primary objective of this agenda is to intimidate, cripple and shut down the operations of independent and critical media outlets so as to prevent Ghanaians from enjoying the benefits of balanced media reportage.

In this regard Muntie Radio and Radio Gold which are perceived as friendly to the opposition National Democratic Congress(NDC) have been intimidated and targeted for closure in order to silence the opposition in Ghana.

In line with this NPP Government strategy, fines some as high as GH61, million (USD 14million) have been imposed on radio stations that do not generate revenue anywhere near theamount of fines arbitrarily imposed on them. Clearly these fines have been arbitrarily imposed with the sinister objective to ensure theirnonpayment in order to create the excuseto shut down radio stations that are critical and independent of Government control.

Ironically, all these negative developments in Ghana’s media landscape are taking place under a Government headed by Nana Akufo-Addo who has always portrayed himself as a human rights activist and advocate of democracy and media freedom in Ghana.

Interestingly the President once acted as lawyer for a petitioner who championed the cause of media freedom in a case decided by the Supreme Court of Ghana which stated categorically that radio licenses are not required in Ghana for radio stations to operate.So what has changed now? Why is President Akufo Addo exhibiting a spirit intolerant of media freedom when much is expected of him?

Why is he endorsing actions that are geared towards clamping down on critical media outlets in Ghana so as to create media space for only praise singing media outlets? Should management of radio frequencies by the NCA be allowed by President Akufo Addo’s government to be handled in a manner that conflicts with media freedoms as guaranteed under Ghana’s constitution?

The danger in all these developments is thatit is indicative of PresidentAkufoAddo’s inordinate desire to control most arms of Government and institutions of state, with a clear intent to stiflelegitimate opposition to his Government. It also goes to reinforcethe emerging perception that Ghana is breeding a dictator in President Akufo Addo.

In the mix of all of these negative developments is the unproductive pestering of the highly recognized Electoral Commissioner of Ghana by pro-Government petitioners; who obviously are being encouraged by a willing President ever ready to forward any petition against the EC that comes before him to a related Chief Justice for a preferred result.

Media freedom is indeed under threat in Ghana, sadly so under a President who obviously has no thick skin for dissent as permitted in the constitution.

Unlike John Mahama who exhibited a high level of tolerance for media freedom and democracy during his era, President Akufo Addo is lowering the bar on Ghana’s democratic credentials in many ways least of which is his recent endorsement of the closure of over a hundred radio stations, on flimsy and questionable criteria for the enforcement of the media regulations in Ghana.

Long live Ghana.

Columnist: Mensah Dekportor

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