Supreme Court orders A-G, NMC to file statements

The Supreme Court has ordered the Attorney-General A-G and National Media Commission (NMC) to within 14 days, file their statement of cases in a matter requiring media owners to seek content approval from the Commission before publication.

The A-G had gone to court with a motion on notice praying for extension to file their statement of case.

Mrs. Grace Ewoo, a Principal State Attorney, said the state had filed its affidavit in respect of the matter on February 24, this year.

Mr. Thaddeus Sory, who represented the NMC, prayed the court to give the Commission some days to file their statement of case.

Mr. Kweku Owusu Agyemang, representing Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), did not object to the submissions of the A-G and NMC.

GIBA had gone to court to strike out a new law, which required media owners to seek content approval from the NMC before publication.

GIBA specifically wanted the court to expunge regulations 3 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11,12 and 22 of the NMC (Content Standards) Regulations 2015 (LI 2224) as being inconsistent with the 1992 Constitution which guarantees unfettered media freedom.

The regulations in contention basically required media owners to apply for content authorisation, submit programme guide and content for approval and go by a set of rules stipulated by the NMC or in default pay a fine or serve between two and five years in jail.

Dissatisfied with the new regulations and what they said was a threat to press freedom, GIBA had caused its lawyer, Mr.  Kwame Boateng, to file a writ to invoke the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

It is seeking a “declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of articles 162 (1), 162 (2), 162 (4), 167 (d) and 173 of the 1992 Constitution, neither the government of Ghana nor any state institution created under the 1992 Constitution, including the NMC, shall engage in acts or exercise any powers that are likely to amount to censorship, control and direction of the institutions of mass media communication in Ghana.

“No institutions of mass media communication shall be criminally penalised for their failure to procure authorisation for the content of their publication from the government or any state institution created under the 1992 Constitution, including the NMC,” the GIBA reliefs said.

The applicant, that joined the A-G as the first defendant, is seeking a declaration that the said regulations 3 to 12 and 22 of the NMC (Content Standards) Regulations 2015( LI 2224) in so far as their cumulative effect was to give the NMC the power to determine which content could be conveyed by operators on a public electronic communications network, amounts to censorship of the media and same contravenes articles 162 (1) and (2) of the 1992 Constitution and is, therefore, void.

“A declaration that the regulations 3,4, 5, 6, 7, 8,9, 10, 11, 12, and 22 of the National Media Commission (Contents Standards) Regulations 2015, LI 2224, in so far as they give the NMC the power to determine content that can be conveyed by the operators on a public electronic communications network.

 

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