The Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, has rejected assertions that the sanctions imposed by the National Communications Authority (NCA), on 131 radio stations amounts to suppression of free speech, saying such arguments are “deficient in logic and good sense.”
The Minority has described the fines handed out to the stations as excessive, adding that the NCA was trying to monetize freedom of expression.Speaking on the floor of Parliament on Thursday, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, backed the NCA’s action, stating that the accusations against the NCA were not based on logic.
“It is unfortunate, and indeed sad to suggest that adherence to the law is a threat to media plurality or that implementing regulatory provisions to manage spectrum can be equated to Nazism? That might make for a good soundbite, but is certainly deficient in logic and good sense,” she said.
“The NCA’s action in no way suppresses free speech. Its inaction, on the other hand, will be irresponsible and can lead to chaos, confusion and disorder caused by the absence of regulation that will impede the exercise of free expression. ”
The stations, including Accra-based Radio Gold, Atlantis Radio and Radio XYZ, 3-FM, were either fined or had their licenses revoked by the National Communications Authority (NCA), following the completion of a nationwide FM Spectrum Audit.
Radio XYZ was fined GHc 4,090,000, Atinka FM GHc 14,800,000, while Radio Gold and Atlantis Radio picked up the heftiest fines with GHc 61,330,000 and GHc 60, 350,000 respectively.
Accra-based Okay FM and Kumasi-based Hello FM, both under the Despite group, have since been shut down as a result of the failure to pay their fines.
The Media Foundation For West Africa (MFWA), expressed concerns with the sanctions, stating that the NCA itself failed in its mandate as some of the stations had been in default for over a decade.
“Why would the NCA sit down over the years, and in their own statement they indicated that some of these affected media organizations had actually failed to renew or pay whatever it is for as many as 17 years. So you ask yourself, all these years what the NCA was doing?”
However, the Communications Minister dismissed these claims, stating that radio stations which have fallen foul of the law cannot be given a pass because of the inaction of the NCA under previous administrations.
“The fact that previous Boards and Directors of the NCA (with or without the blessing of Ministers of Communication) did not enforce their rules does not mean that a new regime with a belief in the rule of law should not apply the laws of the land. There is no timetable to enforcing regulations and ensuring compliance, and it is better late than never,” Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful added.
By: Edwin Kwakofi/citifmonline.com/Ghana