National Communication Act is an affront to constitution-Ayeboafoh

Posted: August 9, 2010 in Uncategorized
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A former editor of the Daily Graphic newspaper, Mr. Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh, who is also a legal practitioner, has called for certain amendments that border on the ‘Freedom and Independence of the Media’ in the 1992 Constitution.This he said will make the Constitution consistent with other provisions enshrined in the legislations of the National Media Commission (NMC), and that of the National Communications Authority (NCA).

According to him, the provisions enshrined in Section 3 of the NCA, Act 2008, are inconsistent with that of Article 162 (3) of the 1992 Constitution.

Mr. Ayeboafo made this submission in Accra yesterday, at a forum organised for the media to make inputs into the ongoing constitutional review exercise by the Constitution Review Commission.

Article 162 (3) states that there shall be no impediments to the establishment of private press or media, and in particular, there shall be no law requiring any person to obtain a license as a prerequisite to the establishment or operation of a newspaper, journal or other media for mass communication or information.

The provision enshrined in section 3 of the NCA act, Act 2008, according to Mr. Ayeboafo, is an affront to that of Article 162 (3) of the 1992 Constitution. He said the provisions in the NCA Act talks about ‘other media’ and insisted that broadcasting is ‘other media’.

This, he said, was the reason why the National Media Commission (NMC) has limited itself to the establishment or operation of a newspaper.

“It is so, because, in the act, Act 449, other media is omitted for ‘other publications’. And the electronic media cannot be construed for other publications. And that is the only reason why the Media Commission restricted itself to print media. But, this is a constitutional provision,” noted Mr. Ayeboafo, adding, “in trying to make sure that we live by what we have agreed for ourselves, we should look at the NCA vis-à-vis this provision.”

He also expressed concern as to why the NCA had the right to give access to broadcasting, while the NMC has the responsibility of looking at content. This, he said, prevents the two bodies from being responsible for what is being said on the airwaves.

“I am saying that once they have given responsibility to NMC to look at content, and we deny it the right of determining who gets that right to do it, is in futility,” noted Mr. Ayeboafo.

He gave an example, where the NMC met and took a decision on the impasse between Radio Peace, a community radio station based in the Central Region, and Peace FM, a commercial radio station based in Accra.

According to him, the two media institutions had had issues to contend with regarding complaints from the public on statements made on those platforms.

“Now the difficulty was sometimes somebody will go to Peace FM and make a statement, and when you complain, they will say that it was Peace radio.  And what brought the problem was that Peace radio has already presented a proposal to some organisations for support. Before they could say jack, Peace FM had already gone there and seen the people, and they had already accessed some of the support that was supposed to go to Peace Radio. And so, Peace Radio made a complaint to the National Media Commission, and the Commission held in favour of Peace Radio, and yet, Peace FM refused to abide by that, and when the NCA was invited to a meeting to discuss it, they did not turn up. And so, whatever the Media Commission did, it did not mean anything, because NCA was not bothered about this problem,” he observed.

In effect, Mr. Ayeboafo proposed that meaning should be given to Article 162 (3), to enable the NMC become fully responsible for giving right to the airwaves and its content.

By so doing, he said, “monitoring content becomes important, because if you go off target, then they will call you and bring you to order. And once you know that they are the ones in charge of giving you the frequency, you are more likely to respond to their calls.”

Mr. Ayeboafo also suggested to the Constitution Review Commission to critically look at the composition of the NMC to give equal representation of journalists, owners of media outlets, and the general public.

Furthermore, Mr. Ayeboafo called for the amendment of Article 108, to enable members of parliament (MPs) to introduce Private Members Legislation on the floor of the House.

According to him, the provision of Article 108 of the 1992 was one of the biggest impediments put in the way of the MPs in the discharge of their duties in the Legislative House.

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