In the guise of shutting down TV stations without “authorisation” Ghana has sleep-walked into an intense media censorship environment as it shuts down about 49 television channels in a single day.
The National Communications Authority (NCA) in a statement released today confirmed that it has identified 49 channels that have been pencilled for a shutdown.
This forms part of a continuous monitoring exercise conducted on various Satellite Free-to-Air Television platforms using the Broadcast Monitoring System (BMS) and the Radio Spectrum Monitoring System (RSMS).
However, the possibility of such a move to be unbiased and targeted at specific channels that are not affiliated to the governing party raised interesting questions, given the reputation of the Minister of Communications Ursula Owusu-Ekufful to go after electronic media houses linked to the main opposition party.
The Minister and the NCA had inspired the shutdown of several radio stations and TV channels, including the biggest radio stations linked to the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) in 2019 – Radio Gold and Radio XYZ.
The NCA and the ministry justified the closure by stating that their authorisations had long expired. But the affected stations debunked this notion stating that they were set up by frustrating them from renewing the authorisation.
Incidentally, the Chief Executive of the NCA is also the main election strategist for the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), including one of those who access the impact of information dissemination that may affect the chances of the ruling party.
Meanwhile, in the latest round of proscription of alleged defaulting channels, the NCA stated: “The monitoring revealed that some channels were operating without valid Authorisations, contrary to Section 2(4) of the Electronic Communications Act 775 of 2008, which states that, ‘Except as provided by this Act or any other law not inconsistent with this Act, a person shall not operate a broadcasting system or provide a broadcasting service without a frequency authorisation by the Authority.”
The channels affected include among others: Kwaku Bonsam TV, Apple TV, Iron TV, Thunder TV, Ice1 TV, Abapa TV, Serwaa TV, Face TV, Cash TV, Lion TV, NTV, Nazareth TV, etc.
“We also take the opportunity to caution all Licence and Authorisation holders to ensure that their licences and authorisations are always up-to-date and in compliance with the stated terms and conditions,” it said.
The shutdown is also raising questions about the government’s true intentions, given the fact that it has earned a reputation as one of the most hostile towards the media, including the assassination of an undercover journalist, Ahmed Suale who was investigating possible high corruption at the Jubilee House.
The Government has also particularly targeted Whatsup News, one of the most critical media mouthpieces in the country. Whatsup News’ Editor-in-Chief, David Tamakloe has been arrested in the line of duty twice in the past six months on frivolous charges by the Ghana Police Service.