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17.05.2019 Politics

Kwesi Pratt, Sammy Awuku Lock Horns Over FM Station Shutdowns

By Clement Akoloh
Kwesi Pratt on the left and Sammy Awuku on the rightKwesi Pratt on the left and Sammy Awuku on the right

There were clashes of words between the Editor-in-Chief of the Insight Newspaper, Kwesi Pratt Junior and the National Organizer of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), Sammy Awuku on an Accra based radio station, Peace FM over the ongoing shutdown of radio stations by the National Communications Authority (NCA).

The Electronic Communications Regulator has in recent times embarked on an exercise to get rid of radio stations it says are working without authorization because their licenses to operate on the spectra allocated to them by the NCA has expired.

However, the initial shutdown of two pro-opposition radio stations, Radio Gold and Radio XYZ, at a time they were carrying a live broadcast of a press conference which was being addressed by the Council of Elders of the largest political party in opposition sparked criticisms about the exercise.

Many questioned objectivity of the unannounced shutdowns.

Discussing this topic on the popular Akan morning show (Kokrokoo), on Peace FM hosted by Kwame Sefa Kayi, Kwesi Pratt and Sammy Awuku were at each other's throat over the appropriateness or otherwise of the actions by the NCA.

While the Editor-In-Chief of the Insight Newspaper maintained that the action by the NCA to close down the radio stations is unconstitutional, the National Organizer of the NPP was of the view that the NCA is legally within its rights as the regulator of the Electronic Communications space to withdraw the frequencies it allotted to these radio stations for non-compliance.

According to Kwesi Pratt, the NCA’s action is an affront to media freedom guaranteed by Article 162 of the 1992 constitution of Ghana. And therefore the regulator’s action in closing down those radio stations was stifling media freedom.

Clause (3) of Article 162 reads, “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.”

However, in his counter-argument, Sammy Awuku observed that the action by the regulatory body is legal in the sense that it is mandated with Authority by law to distribute frequencies to these radio stations to engage in the media enterprise with conditions attached. Failure to comply with those conditions must be followed with the appropriate sanctions.

In the course of the discussion, Kwesi Pratt however got offended when Sammy Awuku referred to his position on the matter as not principled since there was no documentary evidence that he (Kwesi Pratt) had in the past protested against a similar shut down of a pro-NPP radio station, (Choice FM) in 1995 by the same NCA.

The Insight Editor-In-Chief who felt his integrity had been impugned, asked the NPP National Organizer to go and inquire from the leadership of his party, including President Akufo-Addo, about the role he has played in the fight for media freedom in the country since he may be too young at the time to recollect.