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Limit role of NCA; transfer its licensing and sanctioning authority to the NMC – EU Observer mission urges government

The European Union’s Election Observer Mission to Ghana is urging government to limit the role the National Communication Authority to administer broadcasting signals and transfer its licensing and sanctioning powers to the National Media Commission. According to the EU EOM this will help create one sole and completely independent media regulatory authority, in charge of allocating broadcasting licenses, analysing broadcasting contents and dealing with media-related complaints.

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This is contained in the EOM’s report on the December 2020 General elections. According to the report the NMC has not been adequately resourced to carry out its constitutional duties. Excerpts of the report reads

Legal Framework for the Media

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The legal framework for the media, although providing for fundamental rights, needs improvement. The relevant media regulations include the GBC Act (1968); the National Media Commission (NMC) Act (1993); the NCA Act (2008) and the Electronic Communications Act (2008). However, some of these laws have limited effectiveness or need to be amended since they facilitate the overconcentration of political power in the referred media institutions.

The NMC is established by GC as an independent body mandated to promote and ensure free and independent media, high journalistic standards as well as ensuring that state-owned media are independent. Its mandate does not include the possibility to sanction outlets that breach regulations. Furthermore, since 2017 the NMC has lacked the necessary resources to conduct media monitoring to ensure journalistic standards are met and to oversee electoral coverage.The report stated

On the NCA

“The NCA is in charge of allocating broadcasting licences. Its members of both the board and management are directly appointed by the President and function under the directive of the Minister of Communications. This generates mistrust with regard to the independence of the institution. In this context, the process of allocating and revoking broadcast licences by the NCA has become opaque and sometimes arbitrary, resulting in a proliferation of commercial radio and TV stations owned by politicians or linked to political parties”

“This practice is contrary to international standards since it can compromise the independence of the media through politicised content used for campaigning. Further, the overcrowding of the airwaves has had a direct impact on community radio stations, which have had their range of transmission reduced from 25 to 5 km due to the reclassification of radio ranges adopted in 2012 by the NCA to accommodate new licences for commercial radio stations. Page 26

The 94 paged report also notes among others that the December 2020 elections were generally organised in an efficient and transparent manner with voters participating freely in large numbers and isolated cases of violence that resulted in the death at least 5 persons.

Another area of concern for the EU EOM was the abuse of incumbency by the government in power, a biased media coverage by the state media in favour of the incumbent as well the many instances of vote buying by the major political parties. The EOM has since called for a series of measures to address the phenomenon.

Below are the list of recommendations made by the EU EOM

Priority Recommendations

The EU EOM has 18 recommendations for improving elections in Ghana. They include the following eight priority recommendations:

1. Clear procedures for presiding officers, returning officers and regional collation officers to be stipulated on how to proceed in cases of irregularities during the counting and collation process, including over-voting, mismatched reconciliation, incomplete and wrongly filled in result forms.

2. The EC to publish on its website detailed polling station results for all elections, as well as detailed results from all levels of collation well before the deadline for filing petitions against results.

3. Enact and implement an Affirmative Action Law installing at least a 30 per cent quota of women in governance and decision-making positions, with a progressive increase to a parity of 50 per cent. Require political parties to adopt party quotas to promote women’s participation in politics.

4. Adopt a law on campaign expenditure and finance to enhance the overall transparency and accountability of political finance. The law to include establishing disclosure requirements of incomes and expenses for both parties and candidates and limits on expenditure and donations including for in-kind donations. Introduce effective oversight, sanctions and enforcement mechanisms that include a timely publication of all campaign finance reports, including online

5. Introduce an effective sanctioning mechanism against the misuse of state resources, including administrative and security apparatus during the election period.

6. Provide the NMC with sufficient resources to conduct media monitoring and properly oversee the work of the media.

7. Limit the role of the NCA to administer broadcasting signals and transfer its licensing and sanctioning powers to the NMC in order to create one sole and completely independent media regulatory authority, in charge of allocating broadcasting licenses, analysing broadcasting contents and dealing with media-related complaints.

8. The mandate of the Data Protection Commission to be fulfilled in accordance with the Data Protection Act to ensure an effective system of data protection exists not only in law but also in practice.

Click here for the full report

https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/default/files/eu_eom_ghana_2020_final_report.pdf

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