An Accra High Court has directed the National Communication Authority (NCA) to accept ¢1,500 from the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) for the information it requested regarding the number of radio stations operating in the country at the end of the third quarter of 2020.

This fee is ¢500 less than what the Authority charged the Foundation when the latter applied for the aforementioned information. The original fee was ¢2,000.

The Foundation had prayed the High Court, among other reliefs, to declare that the amount of ¢2,000 demanded by the NCA to generate the information constitutes constructive denial, refusal, failure or neglect, and breach of Applicant’s right to information under Article 21(1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.

However, on Thursday, the High Court presided over by Justice Gifty Agyei Addo ruled that the NCA has the mandate to charge fees for its services hence the order to MFWA to pay ¢1,500.

MFWA had requested the NCA to provide full list of all authorised FM stations as of the second quarter of 2020, with indications of the dates of first authorisation, dates of last authorisation renewals, locations, and operational status of the radio stations – that is whether they are on air or off-air.

The NCA subsequently requested payment of ¢2,000 for the service.

However, the MFWA claimed the fee was unlawful, unreasonable, unfair, and in violation of its constitutional and fundamental right to access information, hence the suit.

But the High Court dismissed all the reliefs, including a declaration that the fee was unconstitutional.

The Court held that MFWA failed to establish any basis for the claim that its request is in the public interest. 

The High Court further indicated that the request made by MFWA was to enhance its work, hence must be paid for.

Background

MFWA made a request to the NCA to provide the full list of all Authorised FM stations as of the second quarter of 2020, indicating the dates of first Authorisation, dates of last Authorisation renewals, locations, and operational status (on air or off air).

The institution also requested for the full list of all Authorised television stations as of the second quarter of 2020, indicating the dates of first authorisation, Dates of last Authorisation renewals, locations, and operational status.

It also asked for an explanation for the recent replacement of the published 2020 second quarter report titled: ‘List of Authorised VHF-FM Radios in Ghana as at Second Quarter 2020’ which contained columns for date of first Authorisation and date of last Authorisation renewal, with one that now excludes the dates of first authorisation and dates of last Authorisation renewals.

The MFWA’s request followed allegations that the NCA altered certain information on its published 2020 second-quarter report titled: “List of Authorised VHF-FM Radio Stations in Ghana as at Second Quarter 2020.”

Claims by the MFWA are, the 2020 second-quarter report in the above paragraph is dissimilar to similar reports previously issued by the Authority.

After the NCA failed to provide the requested information within the statutory 14 days, a follow-up letter was sent on August 18, 2020.

Finally, when the NCA responded in two letters, according to the Media Foundation, the Authority indicated it was not going to provide the information requested and also, the MFWA would have to pay ¢2,000 ($345) to enable it to generate the requested information as stipulated in the Electronic Communications Act.

This resulted in the MFWA praying to the Human Rights Court 1 to seek redress on the matter.

The MFWA was praying the court for the following reliefs;

  1. A declaration that the decision and demand by Respondent contained in its letters dated 29th July 2020 and 20th August 2020 complained about are unlawful, unreasonable, unfair, and in violation of Applicant’s constitutional and fundamental right to access information.
  2. A declaration that the amount of ¢2,000 demanded by Respondent from the Applicant in order to generate the information constitutes constructive denial, refusal, failure or neglect, and breach of Applicant’s right to information under Article 21(1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana
  3. A declaration that the amount demanded is not only unlawful but unconscionably exorbitant in breach of the letter and spirit of Act 989 and Applicant’s fundamental rights to information
  4.  A declaration that the information requested by the Applicant is not subjected to a charge/fee; or in the alternative
  5.  A declaration that if Applicant were liable to a charge/fee, same ought to be an ascertainable amount to cover the actual cost of reproduction or photocopy of the information sought only.