Chairman of the National Media Commission Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh, has been asked to recuse himself from a case brought by the government against The Multimedia Group Ltd.

Former Managing Director of Graphic Communications Group Ltd, Ken Ashigbe who made that call said, it smacks of conflict of interest for a government appointee to sit on a case brought by his appointing authority against a media house.

JoyNews on March 7, broadcast a documentary, ‘Militia in the heart of the nation’ showing an unlicensed security company and a militia group, De-Eye, conducting training at the Christianborg Castle, the former seat of government.

Photo:The Group’s weekly activities in the Christiansborg Castle are open, often between 7 and 12 noon and they go there in hundreds as JoyNews’ investigative journalist, Manasseh Azure found out.

Government filed a formal complaint at the NMC on March 13, insisting JoyNews is bad-mouthing its administration in its attempt to clamp down on the activities of party militias that have seen government officials attacked, public offices closed down and a by-election turn violent.

Despite government’s efforts to address the menace, the 22-minute documentary showed a pro-New Patriotic Party (NPP) militia group training within the facility housing no fewer persons than appointees of the president.

Concerns have raised issues with the propriety of government using a state attorney to fight its case against a private media house at the media regulator, the NMC.

The National Media Commission is a constitutional body of 15 representatives from media and media-related institutions, religious bodies, parliament and the president.

The NMC members meet to elect their own chairman.  Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh who was nominated by the government to the Commission, was elected its Chairman in November 2018.

An ‘agitated’ Ken Ashigbe called the continued participation of the NMC chair on the case “a sin against the spirit and letter of the constitution.”

“I am hoping that in terms of the panelling, the chairman of the NMC will not sit on the panel neither will he sit on the plenary.”

Speaking Friday on the AM Show on JoyNews TV, the former Graphic MD weighed the option of going to court to challenge what he described as “an anathema.”

Speaking as Ghana marks World Press Freedom Day Friday, Mr. Ashigbe believes a conflict of interest situations like government vs Multimedia Group Ltd, is intended to gag journalists in the discharge of their duties.

“If the NMC is independent, then it does not matter if the government decides to bring a journalist to the Media Commission,” he said.

AM Show Ken Ashigbe
Photo: [L-R AM Show host Kojo Yankson, GIJ Lecturer Zakaria Tanko Musah and former Graphic Comms Ltd MD Ken Ashigbe

His position was supported by a lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Journalism, Zakaria Tanko Musah, who also impressed on government to reconsider its decision.

“I am worried when I see government dragging media personnel to the regulator. It is an indirect way of trying to achieve what the constitution says we shouldn’t do in chapter 12.”

That chapter in the 1992 constitution guarantees freedom and independence of the media and prescribes that editors or publishers in the mass media space, shall not be subjected to government control or penalised for the content of their publications.

Tanko Musah said where a party is aggrieved by the work of a media house, avenues such as the NMC is available to help address the grievance.

“Individuals can do that but not government,” he said and called on government to create a conducive environment for media work.

While the NMC faces criticisms it is being used, the chairman of the Commission, Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh, has on the occassion of World Press Freedom Day, asked journalists not to be used by politicians.

Ghana has fallen behind on the World Press Freedom Index rankings for 2019. Ranked first in Africa over four consecutive years, the country has now slipped to third in Africa following an increase in attacks on journalists.

The slip presents a paradox to the NPP government which ushered in an era of media pluralism following the repeal of the criminal libel law in 2001.

Leading the repeal was Nana Akufo-Addo who was Attorney-General and Minister of Justice under the John Agyekum Kufuor administration.

He is now President.