Barely a month after he bragged before a group of his peers --- other West African political leaders --- that the Ghanaian press was the most vibrant and dynamic in the region, President Akuffo Addo's claims are being put to a real test by a state agency.
The National Communication Authority's decision last week to take the sledge hammer to as many as 134 radio stations in the country --- revoking their licenses and imposing hefty fines --- for non compliance with regulations, makes Mr. Addo's words ring hollow, indeed empty and a little over the top. If you ask me, the Ghanaian press is no where near vibrant, and dynamic? you must be hallucinating.
I am wondering why the Authority would elect to embark on such an adventure at a critical juncture of our democratic journey. We have come a long way since the early 1990s when then strongman, Mr. Jerry John Rawlings was prodded by the western world to embrace democracy.
And, so far things have been remarkably good, despite some missteps. We haven't exactly being perfect, but we have soldiered on, holding free and fair elections and choosing our own political representatives. But,better still, we have engaged in civil and sometimes contentious political discussions and said whatever it is that we feel about our politicians without fear of being hauled off to jail.
Now, that freedom is being threatened by the NCA. The argument advanced by the Authority that the affected radio stations have not played by the rules just does not cut it with me.
The counter argument which I find thoroughly convincing is that if these radio stations were derelict and failed miserably over the years to renew their licenses, why did it take the Authority so long to take action?
Was it comatose all these years? Could it be that all of a sudden the NCA has finally come to its senses, awoken from its deep slumber and decides that this is the appropiate time to whack non-complying radio stations --- politically unpalatable ones --- with hefty fines and revocation of their operating licences? Your guess is as good as mine.
There is no denying the fact that most of the radio stations targeted by the Authority are NDC sympathizers which invariably has led to speculation that the NPP is trying to muzzle dissent, erode our hard-earned democratic rights and have unparalleled advantages come election time.
The ruling NPP has denied all culpability and is shrugging off accusations that by keeping quiet on the NCA decision ---- the government is yet to strongly condemn that action ---- it is implicitly infringing on the rights of Ghanaians to express their opinions over the airwaves, in a nutshell, their right to free speech is being slowly but surely curtailed.
I think the decision of the National Communication Authority was rash, poorly thoughtout and designed in the main to weaken opposition to the party in power. The more appropiate method for the NCA would have been a behind the scenes dialogue with management of the affected radio stations, followed by a stern directive to comply with the rules of the Authority and to cough up whatever was owed the government.
However, publicly humiliating the stations that are for most part operating in the red, lends credence to the belief that the action of the Authority was politically motivated --- a crude hack job.