Founder of Ghana’s first private radio station, Dr Charles Wereko-Brobbey (Tarzan) has urged government to hand over management of the media airwaves to the National Media Commission (NMC).
Currently the National Communication Authority (NCA), a government institution, is responsible for the management of the airwaves. The NCA assigns, allocates and regulates the use of frequencies in the country. NCA is also responsible for managing civilian access to radio spectrum.
But Dr. Wereko-Brobbey believes the only way the media can insulate itself from political control is to hand over management responsibility entirely to the NMC.
At a public lecture on the eve of World Press Freedom Day themed “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media”, Dr Wereko-Brobbey said the continued control of frequency by the NCA is injurious to press freedom.
Dr Wereko-Brobbey who founded the first private radio station, Radio Eye, believes the NCA is subject to governmental control.
Dr. Wereko-Brobbey’s Radio Eye was shut down by security agencies after only 24 hours of operation.
This action sparked intense riots in Accra, ending the first attempt at breaking state monopoly over broadcasting.
He explained that under the Constitution, the NMC’s responsibility is to focus on the contents of media communication, “but the point is that you cannot broadcast unless you have a frequency, and that really allows governments to exercise control”.
He also called for passage of the broadcasting law to help regulate the media. In his view, without a broadcasting law to regulate media activities, media practitioners will be in a media jungle.
In his view, in order to improve press freedom even further, there is the need to campaign for the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill, which has been awaiting approval by parliament for some years now.
According to him, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are the ones pushing for the bill to be passed into law without a committed support from the media.
Mr Brobbey believes the media is only free until it becomes critical of government, and that in his view is not true freedom.
Another important thing to consider in Ghana’s quest to improve press freedom, according to Mr. Brobbey, is to critically re-examine the NCA Act which allows the it to manage the airwaves, and instead repose the oversight and management responsibilities of the airwaves to the NMC.
The Ghana Journalists’ Association (GJA) is marking the 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day with a symposium and flag raising ceremony to be followed by the swearing-in of newly elected GJA executives.
GJA General Secretary, Bright Blewu told Joy News the Association is happy with the level of press freedom being enjoyed in the country despite isolated cases of abuses.
The Press Freedom Index (PFI) published by Reporters Without Borders every year ranks Ghana 3rd in Africa and 30th in the world in terms of press freedom.
Mr. Blewu believes though this is good, more can be done. He condemned the recent assault on two journalists by military personnel during the 6th March Independence Day parade.
A former executive of the GJA, Frankie Asare Donkor, wants journalists to boycott all activities of the Ghana Armed Forces, until the soldiers who assaulted journalists are prosecuted.