The Republic of Ghana gained its independence from Britain on March 6, 1957. It is bordered by Burkina Faso to the north, Côte d’Ivoire to the west and Togo to the east north and extends south to the Gulf of Guinea. The head office of the MFWA is based in Ghana’s capital, Accra.
Despite a turbulent post-independence political history characterised by several military coups, Ghana has since 1993, been among Africa’s most stable, democratic countries. Chapter 12 of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution guarantees freedom and independence of the media. Article 162 (3) of the Constitution states: “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 mass communication or information.” This constitutional stipulation reflects the situation on the ground as Ghana has one of the freest media environments in the world.
Ghana has a vibrant, pluralistic and free media environment with an independent statutory media regulatory body, the National Media Commission. There are, however, serious challenges with professional standards and partisanship. Internet and mobile telephone penetration has been very significant resulting in the creation of several online media and wider access to mobile telephony services.
Legal Regulatory Framework for Media Operation
In spite of a Constitutional provision that recognises in Article 21, the importance
of free expression that includes exchange of ideas and interaction as well as respect for diverse opinion; and the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law in 2001, Section 208 of the country’s Criminal Code (1960) contains provisions that are inimical to free expression. Specifically, the following provisions under Section 208, which have been applied recently by security forces to intimate or harass journalists, can be highlighted:
(1) Any person who publishes or reproduces any statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace knowing or having reason to believe that the statement, rumour or report is false is guilty of a misdemeanour.
(2) It is no defence to a charge under subsection (1) that the person charged did not know or did not have reason to believe that the statement, rumour or report was false unless he proves that, prior to publication, he took reasonable measures to verify the accuracy of the statement, rumour or report.
There are two main media regulatory institutions in Ghana are the National Media Commission (NMC), which deals mainly with media content, and the National Communications Authority (NCA) which is mainly responsible for frequency allocation, regulation and infrastructural development.
The NMC was established in 1993 in accordance with Articles 166 to 173 of the 1992 Constitution, with oversight responsibility over the media to promote and safeguard the freedom and independence of the media, encourage responsible practice and investigate, mediate and settle complaints made against the media. The NMC is made up of 18 members drawn from a broad spectrum of media and other professional stakeholder groupings, to ensure neutrality and insulate it against governmental control.
The National Communications Authority (NCA), on the other hand was established by an Act of Parliament (Act 524) on December 30, 1996, to promote broadcast pluralism, to oversee the allocation, administration and utilization of the country’s frequency spectrum and ensure that communications services are provided throughout Ghana. Accordingly, the NCA allocates frequencies and grants licences for the operation of radio, television, telephone and other telecommunication services in the country.
MFWA’s Work in Ghana
For the past 15 years, the MFWA’s work has contributed to achieving a free, pluralistic media and an environment of free expression. Having successfully promoted a free media and expression environment, the MFWA’s work in Ghana have for the past four years been focused on strengthening the media to be effective agents for participatory and accountable governance particularly at the local governance level. There are also ongoing interventions to strategically use the media to promote the rights of women and other marginalised groups.
The MFWA is also currently engaged in promoting internet freedom in Ghana with the objective of making the internet open, accessible and affordable to all. In this endeavour, the MFWA has mobilised over 30 civil society groups into an internet freedom coalition and forged partnerships with key state and other non-state stakeholders to help make the internet a major driver of Ghana’s socio-economic and political development.
As a working group member of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) and a key member of the African Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), the MFWA is actively engaged in advocacy for the passage of a Right to Information Law through its own initiatives and activities of the Ghana Coalition on Right to Information.
Thus going forward, the priorities for MFWA’s work in Ghana will be on: Citizens’ participation in governance, transparent and accountable local governance, internet freedom, and Access to information.