Managing Editor of the New Crusading Guide newspaper, Abdul Malik Kweku Baako has registered his strongest opposition yet to calls for a constitutional review of the powers of the National Media Commission.
There have been numerous calls for the National Media Commission [NMC] to be given more powers to enable it effectively control the media. Some critics have accused the NMC and the Ghana Journalists Association [GJA] of lacking the “teeth” to bite when media organizations and individuals flout the media regulations in the country.
But commenting on the repeal of the criminal libel law on Multi TV and Joy FM’s news analysis program 'Newsfile', Mr. Baako said there was no need to beef up the powers [teeth] of either the NMC or the GJA.
He stated: “I am opposed to any attempt to give teeth to the Media Commission or to the GJA,,” explaining that both institutions have their own constitution which gives them the mandate to discipline their members when they fall short.
“Because of the nature of our constitution and the strive for free expression, you cannot regulate who must be a journalist or not a journalist or a propagandist or not a propagandist” he said adding that “the fundamental constitutional principle is that you cannot stop anybody from expressing himself, that is the bottom line, that is the kind of constitution we have.”
According to him, since the repeal of the criminal libel law, the media has contributed immensely to the liveliness of the country’s democracy and as such it will be suicidal to regulate who must be a journalist or not.
Instead of giving the regulatory bodies more powers, the New Crusading Guide boss called for the creation of a “critical mass of responsible and accountable journalists” to help curtail the unethical and unprofessional tendencies that are emerging in the media landscape.
Deputy Majority Leader and MP for Wa West, Rashid Pelpuo who was also a guest on the show called for an additional legal instrument to empower the NMC to regulate the media properly so as to churn out media persons who will not over step their boundaries in the media landscape.
“Because of the widespread liberal atmosphere, people say anything and then they can get away with it. When it touches on the image of an institution or individual, it is still easy for you to go away with it, but the person suffers for it for life, and so something has to be done to make people self regulate themselves by compulsion not by choice” he said.
NDC activist, Felix Kwakye Ofosu who was also on the show questioned the sincerity of the NPP’s 2012 flag bearer Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo – who at the time of the repeal of the law in 2001 was Attorney General – for spearheading the repeal of the criminal libel law.
He recounted “for instance, when Mr. Rawlings travelled outside this country and made very critical comments about the Kufuor administration, you saw the efforts that were made to deprive him of certain courtesies that were extended to him as a former President, in other words he was being punished or sanctioned for having expressed himself freely. And no less a person than Nana Addo was at the heart of that particular maneuver, so clearly how is it that on the one hand you say that laws restricting press freedom should be removed and then on the other hand you are doing things to sanction or punish someone who has expressed his opinion even if that opinion was very critical of your government.”
He also took a swipe at the current form of media practice in the country which he says lacks professionalism and ethics, and unlike Mr. Baako, he called for the empowerment of NMC to regulate media activities more efficiently.
“I think if they (NMC) were empowered, most of the difficulties we have now will be dealt with because where clearly people fall foul of ethics and practices within the profession, the Media Commission ought to be able to enforce its regulations and get them to comply.”
Executive Director of the Danquah Institute, Gabby Okyere-Darko who was also a panel member, reiterated the benefits of the repeal of the criminal libel law saying “the best thing that happened to Ghana arguably from the 1992 constitution is the liberalization of the media landscape.”
He also used the platform to call for the institutionalization of the Right to Information Bill and the strengthening of MDAs to facilitate access to information by the media.
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