A Deputy National Communications Officer of the National Democratic Congress (NCA), Fred Agbenyo, suspects the National Communication Authority may be trying to gag anti-Government radio stations with its recent “draconian” sanctions.
He echoed the NDC Minority in Parliament’s fears that the NCA’s decision to clamp down on 131 radio stations operating illegally or with expired licenses is an attack on press freedom.
Mr. Agbenyo said the NDC was not against the efforts to maintain law and order, but the NCA may have gone too far in this regard.
“What we are talking about is so serious and anybody who believes in free speech and anybody who believes it is entrenched in our democracy, anybody who believes in creating an environment for Ghanaians to express themselves will be concerned that what the NCA is doing now is a dangerous attempt that could curtail that particular free speech.”
As a suggestion, Mr. Agbenyo said the NCA could negotiate with the sanctioned companies and agree on flexible payment terms.
“…It must not come across as though the NCA wants to collapse the institutions that are helping all of us and helping to broaden the frontiers of our democracy.” He said the fines were “a subtle way of [the NCA] telling them; we don’t want you to operate again” and noted further that the list of the media houses in question contained stations that were “somehow anti-NPP.”
“… it is obvious and clear, and you can see that they are targeting particular media houses. Otherwise, how can the NCA sit down for all these years? If you claim that somebody has not renewed their license for the past four or five years, what were you doing all these years?”
NCA could have taken softer stance
34 of the sanctioned stations had their licenses revoked because their authorizations had expired and were operating illegally, and other affected stations have been given 30 days to settle their indebtedness or submit the relevant documentation as indicated in the letters sent them by the NCA. Among the stations sanctioned were Montie FM and Radio Gold, known to be pro-NDC stations.
Mr. Agbenyo maintained that the NCA’s approach to the sanctions was wrong, and warned that NDC was not going to sit back and let the matter slide because “if genuinely, it is not a case they want to victimize because they disagree with their content and editorial policies, there is a much better way the NCA could have gone about this issue than the approach they are using.”
“If we get the conviction that it is an attempt to gag radio stations or media houses that somehow are aligned to us [the NDC], of course, we will not sit back and look at them do whatever they want to do.”