Government’s recent decision to boycott Multimedia Group Limited, a private media company, made headlines in Ghana and abroad. Multimedia Group Limited operates Joy FM, Hitz FM, Adom FM, Asempa FM, Nhyira FM, Luv FM and Multi TV. The official government statement on the boycott stated instances of bias and unfair conduct by Multimedia against government. This included the failure of Multimedia to condemn the disruption of a live radio programme by a group of NPP activists led by their national youth organiser, Anthony Karbo, and the change of the programme’s host thereafter, as the immediate cause of the boycott.

The boycott raised questions about the freedom of the press, press fairness, separation of party and government and other interesting questions. It has since been rescinded after a meeting of Multimedia, Government, Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA). I would not like to discuss whether government’s decision was justified or otherwise. What I would like to do is to look at whether the action of government was consistent with the provisions of the 1992 constitution.

Article 162(4) of the constitution states that:
?Editors and publishers of newspapers and other institutions of the mass media shall not be subject to control or interference by Government, nor shall they be penalized or harassed for their editorial opinions and views, or the content of their publications.?

From this provision, it is clear that the legality or otherwise of the government boycott depends on whether the boycott constitutes ?control or interference? or whether Multimedia was being ?penalized or harassed?. I leave it to legal minds.

Article 162(6) states that
?Any medium for the dissemination of information to the public which publishes a statement about or against any person shall be obliged to publish a rejoinder, if any, from the person in respect of whom the publication was made.?

In the government’s statement, instances where Joy FM failed to retract or apologise for certain stories they had published even after their attention had been drawn to the inaccuracy of the story were cited. Could the government take legal steps against Multimedia if they felt this provision had been breached? I leave it to legal minds.

Finally Article 164 states that
?The provisions of articles 162 and 163 of this Constitution are subject to laws that are reasonably required in the interest of national security, public order, public morality and for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons.?

Some of the arguments in favour of the boycott made by Mr David Annan, a member of the NDC legal team, relied on this provision. From the government’s statement, they believe Joy FM’s report on Ghana Real Estates Developers Association (GREDA) executives receiving death threats and a report of an armed attack of a bus and the subsequent mass rape of its passengers were false. Could this serve as a basis for justifying their boycott if the government was indeed in breach of Article 162(4)? I leave it to legal minds.

Source;

ematu Kuseh
[email protected]
jeromewrites.blogspot.com

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