The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has expressed concerns about the shutdown of Volta region-based radio station, Radio Tongu by the National Communications Authority (NCA).
The media rights organisation in a statement intimated that the NCA’s mandate did not include the regulation of content of media organisations in the country.
They expressed shock at why the authority among other things shutdown Radio Tongu based on “the nature and type of content the radio station was broadcasting (which possibly had national security ramifications) and what is said to be complaints by a group of people about the management of the station.”
Reiterating the functions of the NCA, the Media Foundation for West Africa noted that “It must be pointed out that when the NCA authorises and approves frequencies for use by radio stations, it is not the mandate of the Authority to also exercise oversight over the day-to-day management of stations.
Owners of radio stations have the responsibility of appointing their managers and determining whether or not they are pleased with how their stations are managed. Where complaints about how a station is managed relates to the contents of the station, the NCA will still not be the body to deal with such complaints.
It is, therefore, curious why the NCA will cite among reasons for a shutdown of a radio station, complaints by people about how the station is managed.
The National Communications Authority justified the shutdown of Radio Tongu citing the radio station’s support of a secessionist group in early February. They explained that the shutdown was on “grounds of National Security and in the public interest.”
In a letter addressed to the station the NCA offered the following six reasons as the basis for suspension of the station:
a. Prior to the grant of the Provisional Renewal Authorisation, the NCA received a petition in 2014 from the Concerned Citizens of Tongu complaining about the manner in which Radio Tongu was being managed and operated by the Manager of the station, Mr. Bestway Zottor. The petition was copied to the South Tongu District Assembly and the Office of the Representative of UNESCO to Ghana.
b. In April 2019, the petitioners sent a reminder about their earlier petition to the Authority.
c. As a result of the petition, the NCA held a meeting with the petitioners and representative of the District Chief Executive at our Ho Regional office on 14th June, 2019. The Chairman / Manager of Tongu Radio failed to attend the said meeting.
d. The petitioners, on 9th January, 2020, wrote to the NCA alleging that Mr. Bestway Zottor was using the radio station for defamation, religious teaching to create confusion among churches and for political campaigns promoting the separatists’ agenda of the Western Togoland movement.
e. The NCA also took into consideration the arrest by the police of Mr. Bestway Zottor, the manager of the station, upon the request of the District Security Council, for using the station to promote the agenda of a separatist movement in the Volta Region.
f. After a critical review of the escalating situation and pending the resolution of the security and public interest concerns in accordance with Section 13(1)(e) of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008, (Act 775), the NCA, on 5th February, 2020, suspended the Authorisation of Radio Tongu. This was on grounds of national security and the public interest.
But the MFWA insists that the Communications Authority far reached out of their jurisdiction to carry out the action.
They maintained that it was the duty of the National Media Commission (NMC) to carry out that mandate.
“In choosing to rely on the Electronic Communications Act, 2008, (Act 775), to revoke the frequency authorisation of the radio station, the NCA should have also taken note of Section 2(9) of the same Act 775, which cautions that: “In pursuit of its mandate, the Authority shall pay particular attention to the provisions of Chapter 12 of the Constitution.”
For the avoidance of doubt, Chapter 12 of the 1992 Constitution sets up the independent National Media Commission (NMC) under Article 166. The constitution mandates the NMC to take all appropriate steps to ensure the highest journalistic standards in the mass media “including investigation, mediation, and settlement of complaints made against or by the press or other mass media.”
To highlight the critical point about the independence of the NMC, the constitution says in Article 172 that in the performance of its functions, the NMC “shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority.”
The constitution did not say the NCA is the body that should receive complaints against the media. It did not say the NCA is the body to investigate, mediate and settle any such complaints as it sought to do by receiving and handling petitions about the management and content of a radio station and holding a meeting in its regional office about the complaints received. The constitution says that is the function of the NMC,” the statement read.
Read the full statement below