Media Foundation for West Africa accuses NCA of bias and abuse of the Right To Information Law

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has accused the National Communications Authority of being motivated by a hidden motive to shut down some radio stations and abusing the Right to Information Law to deny the Ghanaian public information.

Media Foundation for West Africa accuses NCA of bias and abuse of the Right To Information Law

In May 2019, the NCA shut down Radio Gold and Radio XYZ, claiming that a spectrum audit had revealed that the two radio stations believed to be pro-opposition National Democratic Congress and some others were broadcasting with expired frequency authorization.

The Media Foundation for West Africa, the Ghana Journalists Association and other stakeholders have criticised the manner in which the affected stations were raided and closed down while they were on-air broadcasting to their audience.

Speculations have since been rife that the closure of Radio Gold and Radio XYZ was politically motivated, but the NCA has denied the allegations, saying other radio stations in other parts of the country were equally affected. It has failed to name the other affected radio stations.

For purposes of transparency and fairness, the Media Foundation for West Africa sought to get from the NCA, a list of all radio stations which were closed down as a result of the illegality discovered, as well as all radio stations that are compliant and operating in the country currently.

The foundation said it had discovered that some other radio stations which equally defaulted in renewing their frequency authorisations have been left to operate while a selected few perceived to be anti-government were shut down.

“While analysing the data, the team came across a very curious phenomenon. While some of the stations captured as authorised by the NCA had dates of last authorisation renewal stated, others had no such information indicated,” Executive Director of the MFWA Suleimana Braimah told newsmen at a press conference held at the foundation’s premises on Wednesday, September 23.

“With a deep sense of surprise and curiosity, we called the Director of Consumer and Corporate Affairs at the NCA. Our question was simple: We see that several radio stations in your 2020 data do not have dates of last authorisation renewal while others have. If those that have renewed had the dates of renewals indicated, with some as recent as 2020, should we consider those that are blank as stations that have not renewed, and if so why have they also not been shut down just as others?

“We were given some incoherent explanations and we kept probing on phone. In the end, the explanations offered did not provide an answer to our questions. So, we decided we were going to follow-up with a formal letter the following week.

“To our utter shock and surprise, the following week, the NCA had altered the data, taking away the vital information on dates of first authorisation and dates of last authorisation renewal for all stations.”

The MFWA filed an access to information request to the NCA under Article 21(1)(f) of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution and under Ghana’s Right to Information Act, 2019, Act 989 on July 22, 2020, seeking the following information:

  1. The full list of all FM radio stations (indicating name of the company, name of radio station, location and frequency number) that were shut down by the NCA following the Authority’s 2017 FM spectrum audit and in line with the 2018 decision of the Electronic Communications Tribunal.  
  2. The full list of all authorised FM stations as of the second quarter of 2020, indicating the dates of first authorisation, dates of last authorization renewals, locations, and operational status that is whether they are on-air or off-air. 
  3. An explanation for the sudden replacement of its published 2020 second-quarter report titled: “List of Authorised VHF-FM Radio Stations in Ghana as at Second Quarter 2020” which contained columns for date of first authorisation and date for last authorisation renewals, with one that now excludes the dates of first authorisation and dates of last authorisation renewals.  
  4. The full list of all authorised television stations as of the second quarter of 2020, indicating dates of first authorisation, dates of last authorisation renewals, locations and operational status.

However, the NCA failed to provide the MFWA with the information it requested within the 14 days as stipulated in the Right to Information Law.

A follow-up letter got a response from the NCA signed for the Director-General by the Acting Director (Legal), Dr. Poku Adusei in which the authority demanded GHC2,000 from the MFWA before it could provide the requested information.

According to the MFWA, the GHC2,000 fee the NCA is seeking in exchange for the information it has requested is not only outrageous but also arbitrary and illegal.

“We found the demand for as high as GHC2,000 very exorbitant, unaffordable and quite contrary to the provisions on fees in the law under which we had made the request, the Right to Information Act, 2019, Act 989. Besides, we found the amount to be exorbitant because the information requested is or should already be in the custody of the Authority and we had indicated our preference for soft copies to be sent to us through a provided email address”

Suleimana Braimah has vowed that the foundation will continue to explore other means including going to the court to get the information the Ghanaian public deserves to know.

He urged the NCA to soften its stance and do the needful if it has nothing to hide.

Read the full statement by the MFWA below:

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