Mr Kabral Blay-Amihere, Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC) has called for the proper establishment of the Media Development Fund (MDF) as an independent body in accordance with the 1992 Constitution.

He said if the fund is properly established, it would be a fitting legacy to late President John Evans Atta Mills and his successor President John Dramani Mahama.

Mr Blay-Amihere was speaking at the Swearing-in of Mr Ernest Benjamin Kakra Essamuah, nominated by the National Council for Women and Development /Ministry of Gender and Social Protection as their representative to the NMC.

Mr Kakra Essamuah replaces Ms Patience Opoku who represented the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection on the Commission.

Mr Blay-Amihere also welcomed the statement by President Mahama during his new year?s encounter with the media to create a platform for all stakeholders in particular the NMC and the Ministry of Information and Media Relations to look at the best way forward for this bold initiative of the government.

He debunked claims by some political commentators that the NMC had demanded that the fund be handed over to the NMC to run as its own, adding that the claim is not backed by any evidence since the position of the NMC in the correspondence to the government is clear and unambiguous.

Mr Blay-Amihere further stated that the Media Fund should only commence and operate when a properly constituted Board of Trustees has been set up and guidelines, procedures and criteria for accessing the fund had been outlined and made public.

He said the NMC would want to help build an institution that would strengthen free speech and democracy and more importantly remain a permanent feature and bedrock of the country?s democracy.

President John Dramani Mahama in his encounter with the media pledged to resolve the challenges associated with the implementation of the Media Development Fund (MDF).

He said he would seek audience with Information and Media Relations Minister, Mr Mahama Ayariga, the National Media Commission (NMC) and other stakeholders to address any challenges confronting the disbursement of the fund.

President Mahama made the pledge in a response to a question on the status of the MDF; whether the fund had an administrator, how much had so far been disbursed, as well as the beneficiaries.

The government in year 2011 announced the establishment of a GH?1 million Media Development Fund to help the media in Ghana?s development but the disbursement of the fund is a challenge as stakeholders, led by the NMC and the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), have been advocating a neutral body to disburse the fund.

It was not until late last year that Mr Ayariga, while answering questions in Parliament, stated that the money for 2011 was used to purchase laptops for journalists.

The Minister told Parliament that the laptops were purchased by the ministry after it had consulted key media stakeholder groups ? the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG) and Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA).

In a sharp rebuttal, GIBA denied receiving any money or laptop from the Ministry of Information, while the GJA said it received only 140 laptops. Since then, the MFWA has been leading a campaign to ensure transparency and accountability in the disbursement of the fund;  a move that many journalists and media organizations support.

President Mahama explained that he was not privy to the current status of the fund and promised to consult the stakeholders to find out what had gone wrong with its disbursement.

He also said he would ensure that the right systems were put in place for the smooth disbursement of the fund.

The Deputy Executive Director of the MFWA, Mr Sule Braimah, welcomed the President?s response and said it was the duty of the media to monitor that promise keenly to ensure that the issues surrounding the disbursement of the fund were addressed.

Source: GNA

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