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NMC law on authorisation of media content a big joke – Samson Lardy

The National Media Commission is receiving bashing for enacting a ‘ridiculous, absurd,’ law which media practitioners say amounts to censorship.

Vexed at a law which requires media operators to obtain “content authorization from the commission”, lawyer and media practitioner Samson Lardy Anyenini says the NMC must be joking.

A new Legislative Instrument (LI 2224) has stated that failure to obtain permission to broadcast particular content attracts “a fine not less than five thousand units or a term of imprisonment of not less than two years and not more than five years or to both the fine and term of imprisonment.”

There has been an uproar within the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) since the passage of the law. GIBA has vowed to challenge the LI at the Supreme Court.

On the second day of resistance against the NMC’s law since the news broke, Samson Lardy Anyenini told Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Tuesday, “this is the biggest provocation I have ever seen, the biggest joke, this is an absolute absurdity it is such a big insult on the constitution.” Dwelling on Article 162 of the Constitution, ‘FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE OF THE MEDIA’, Samson Lardy said he was at a loss as to how the National Media Commission could write such a law.

The article states:

(1) Freedom and independence of the media are hereby guaranteed.

(2) Subject to this Constitution and any other law not inconsistent with this Constitution, there shall be no censorship in Ghana.

(3) There shall be no impediments to the establishment of private press or media; and in particular, there shall be no law requiring any person to obtain a license as a prerequisite to the establishment or operation of a newspaper, journal or other media for mass communication or information.

(4) Editors and publishers of newspapers and other institutions of the mass media shall not be subject to control or interference by Government, not shall they be penalized or harassed for their editorial opinions and views, or the content of their publications.

While he is not against checking irresponsible reportage, the LI, he said was too broad in the areas it seeks to control.

“I would agree with them if they said they were circumscribing a particular content.”

He joined GIBA in stressing the law is doing nothing more than re-introducing the criminal libel law scrapped in July 2001 by the Kufuor administration.

Chairman of the NMC, Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng however explained, content authorisation is just making the NMC aware of what media operator are going to do on their shows.

“There’s nowhere in this the LI that threatens journalism. It is not a new standard”, Gyan Apenteng assured. According to him, “content regulation is not new in broadcasting. All over the world, broadcasting is regulated in different ways”

The Executive Secretary of the National Media Commission George Sarpong also explained the NMC has a legal responsibility to ensure proper journalistic standards

He said content authorization does not apply to journalists and broadcasters but to media operators.

“The law is not targeting journalists at all…” he assured.

He explained the bye-law requires media operators to “make sure that that system is not used to undermine national stability or destroy society.”

Providing scenarios under which the LI will apply, George Sarpong said a media operator interested in broadcasting content that promote terrorism and pornography will be barred.

“If somebody came and said that ‘I want to set up a radio station to propagate the ideals of Boko Haram…or I have discovered that more and more people are interested in nude and pornographic content so I hope to make a lot of profit from that so I am setting up a TV station’ that person would not be allowed by this law,” he explained.

George Sarpong insisted there is no framework prohibiting the broadcast of the prohibitive content he identified.

He said when Ghana enters digital migration era, TV networks will not necessarily be required to obtain a license from the NMC before broadcasting.

“It means the entire TV market will be unregulated. Anybody can carry any content.”

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