Former lawmaker Albert Kan-Dapaah says he feels vindicated for protesting against the state monopoly over broadcasting 20 years ago after he and others set up Ghana’s first private Radio station although they did not have a permit.
For doing this, Hon Kan-Dapaah said he faced an embarrassing experience at the hands of the Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) who stormed Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) Head office to arrest him. He was then a Director of Finance.
The Chartered Accountant said for many at the office, arresting a Director of Finance meant only one thing – he had stolen some money.
“I was then a Public Servant, the Director of Finance in Electricity Company of Ghana and I certainly did not qualify to wear the tag of a Rabble Rouser. I was not a rebel; I still remember how it all happened”.
His friend Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby was then unemployed after he was relieved of his post as energy advisor after a disagreement over policy. An unemployed Wereko-Brobby began mulling over the idea of setting up a radio station.
Kan-Dapaah who was later appointed Minister of Communications and Technology recalled that 20 years ago, it was risky to consider setting up a radio station.
But after Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby took him through the law, he realized “some activism was needed” because there was sufficient “legal foundation for a radical break” of state monopoly.
Albert Kan-Dapaah was appointed Director of the new radio station, Radio EYE in 1994.
“I did not decide to accept a Directorship in Radio Eye blindly. I did so after a careful review of the laws as they existed at the time…I was not afraid. I really wasn’t afraid…. I got into all this because of my firm beliefs”
Radio EYE aired for two weeks before, the Police closed down the station and seized its equipment. Despite a 20 years old High court ruling ordering the return, the police are yet to comply.
The former Afigya-Sekyere MP who turns 62 next March joked that he is looking forward to his pensions money to go to court and ask for a judgment debt from government for disregarding a court order to return Radio EYE’s equipment.
Asked if Radio EYE would consider getting a license to operate again, Charles Wereko-Brobby ruled it out explaining that Radio EYE was a “citizen’s protest than a real desire to broadcast.”
The national conference ends Friday at the Kofi Annan ICT Center and is sponsorsed by pro Civil Society group Star-Ghana.
Read full text Albert Kan-Daaah's speech
REMARKS BY THE DISCUSSANT HON A. KAN-DAPAAH
I did not decide to accept a Directorship in Radio Eye blindly.
I did so after a careful review of the laws as they existed at the time
I was then a Public Servant, the Director of Finance in ECG and I certainly did not qualify to wear the tag of a Rabble Rouser. I was not a rebel; I still remember how it all happened.
Dr. Wereko Brobby took me through the laws. Starting with the 1945 Ordinance and its famous “Except under and in accordance with a license granted by the Governor …….”
We went through SMCD 71 of 1969, the Constitutional provisions in the 1969 and 1979 Constitutions. It wasn’t my understanding as Mr. Akoto Ampaw has confirmed that those laws banished independent or private broadcasting.
Even if those pieces of legislation were not emphatic enough , the 1992 Constitution, to use Mr. Ampaw’s words “set the legal foundations for a radical break from the system and culture of broadcasting as state/ government monopoly.
Let me quote Article 162(3) of the 1992 Constitution. 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 licence as a prerequisite to the establishment or operation of a newspaper, journal or other media for mass communication or information.
It wasn’t my understanding that you did not need a licence.
Certainly the grant of frequency needed to be controlled. That was why we put in an application for a license. My understanding is that once there were available frequencies we were entitled to be allocated a frequency.
When another applicant considered more politically correct was granted a license I became convinced that some activism was needed to defend an important cause.
As soon as we went on air, the chase began. The equipment was seized. I was called to the office of my MD where some 2 CID officers were waiting to arrest me.
I did not panic. But there was some embarrassment. When a Director of Finance is picked from his office, the assumption is that he has stolen some money. In court, I had so much confidence in my lawyers that I was not afraid.
I got into all this because of my firm belief, again to quote the speaker, that “Broadcasting is in many ways at the nerve centre of efforts at building a democratic society.” Community Broadcasting for instance is the most practical and productive way for ordinary citizens to participate in the governance process. There is the cardinal importance of the media in democratic governance.
Twenty years later, I feel vindicated because as Mr. Ampaw puts it, Broadcasting Pluralism has transformed lives. It has given voice to others, other than the Governor under the Ordinance and politicians. It has exposed wrongdoings and corruption in public life. It has contributed to the growth of our democracy. And above all it has brought some degree of accountability.
In a Democracy, Accountability is important. You cannot give a Government so much power and so much money without demanding accountability. Let’s remember that in Ghana today we have new governance challenges.
The ideals we fought for, years ago, in our quest for Good Governance were Human Rights, Civil Liberties, Law and Order, Parliamentary Democracy. These constituted the Governance Challenges of Yesterday. To a large extent we have achieved them.
The Governance Challenges of today are, How to curb the excesses of Government, Inclusiveness, Transparency and Accountability.
Broadcasting Pluralism is clearly one of the most potent accountability institutions and mechanisms in the world today.
All the same, I must agree with the speaker. The mass electronic media can be used either for the good of society or the bad of society. “Without a comprehensive regulatory framework there can be dangers ahead”. And if indeed there are inconsistencies in the key laws regulating broadcasting as explained by the speaker then let us move with speed to harmonise them.
I am not unaware of the turf war between the National Media Commission and the National Communication Authority. ie Regulating content vrs Licensing and allocation of frequencies. We need to resolve this, mindful of the fact that “with the advance of technology, information and communication are converging.
The proposed Broadcasting Law should address these concerns, harmonise the respective roles of the National Media Commission and the National Communications Authority. And find solutions to the funding challenges of the Media Commission. The bill provides for a Broadcast Authorisation Committee to consider applications for broadcast authorization. To me the question is given the circumstances of 1994 and even today would Radio Eye get a licence.
And can we get the Broadcasting Act to recognize the new challenges of “internet broadcasting, social media and digital migration and the complex problems they raise for broadcast regulation, independence and national ownership.’
Why the validity periods and as the speaker says have they taken into account the practical need to recoup the cost of investment.
The proposal in the Bill that the Government may take over the Broadcast Service of GBC in an emergency is dangerous. From what we have seen of our Governments can we go to sleep peacefully if such powers are given to our politicians.
There is the need for an early passage of the Law.
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