Hon.Kojo Oppong Nkrumah-Information Minister
SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE GHANA JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION, ALBERT KWABENA DWUMFOUR, AT A PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE DECISION OF THE ADA TRADITIONAL COUNCIL TO BAN RADIO ADA FROM COVERING THIS YEAR’S ASAFOTUFIAMI, HELD AT THE GHANA INTERNATIONAL PRESS CENTRE, ON THURSDAY, AUGUST 11, 2022
Members of the National Executive of the GJA,
Colleagues in the media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning to you all.
On behalf of the National Executive of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), I wish to express profound gratitude to you for responding to our invitation at a very short notice. This is the first press conference we are addressing since the new administration took office one-and-half months ago. We believe you will continue to rally behind the programmes and activities of the GJA for the good of the Association.
Colleagues in the media, you may recall that in my Inaugural Address, on June 30, 2022, I underlined the commitment of the Dwumfour Administration to defend press freedom at all time. In that regard, I indicated our intention to establish a fund called the ‘Journalists Support Fund’ to address press freedom and welfare matters.
This morning, we have invited you here to address an issue that touches the heart of press freedom, and which needs urgent attention. This has to do with the decision of the Ada Traditional Council to ban Radio Ada from covering this year’s Asafotufiami, the festival of the chiefs and people of the Ada Traditional Area. Upon hearing the news, I directed the General Secretary and the National Organising Secretary to go to Ada to gather firsthand information on the matter to better inform our intervention. The GJA delegation interacted with staff of Radio Ada and persons close to the Ada Traditional Council. And so we have a good appreciation of the issues at stake to inform our address.
Ban On Coverage of Asafotufiami
Ladies and gentlemen of the media, it is instructive to note that since its establishment 24 years ago, Radio Ada has covered Asafotufiami every year. It is always accorded prominent place and space to mount its outside broadcast equipment at the festival grounds. But this year, for the first time in its history, Radio Ada was denied its status at the celebration of Asafotufiami.
The blacklisting of the radio station started with the Ada Traditional Council not inviting Radio Ada for the coverage of the official launch of the festival at Treasure Island, Ada, on June 30, 2022. On July 14, 2022, the management of the radio station wrote to the ‘Ada Asafotufiami Planning Committee 2022’ to draw its attention to what it believed to be the “inadvertent omission to the regular protocol of the planning committee”.
The management followed up on its letter with a delegation to meet the Ada Traditional Council on August 1, 2022, to further discuss the matter. According to officials of the radio station, the outcome of the meeting with the Ada Traditional Council was positive.
However, the Ada Traditional Council followed up with a letter to the radio station dated August 1, 2022, delivering the Council’s decision to place restrictions on Radio Ada as follows:
“Radio Ada will not be allowed to mount a stage at Ada Asafotufiami Park
Neneme will not grant interviews to journalists from Radio Ada.
Noah Dameh, Serwah Warri and Amanor Dzeagu who happen to be hosts of programmes with unrefined language towards Neneme are not to be seen at the park in Radio Ada paraphernalia.”
Indeed, in our fact-finding mission, persons close to the Ada Traditional Council expressed deep concern about the use of “insulting” and “disrespectful” language by programme hosts of Radio Ada against Neneme.
They cited the regular practice of the reporters mentioning the names of Neneme without according them their titles and also inciting the people to hoot at Neneme and call them names during a demonstration.
Colleagues in the media, whilst appreciating the concerns of Neneme as indicated above, especially what they described as “unrefined language” used to address them by programme hosts of the radio station, the GJA believes the imposition of restrictions on the radio station and its reporters is unjustifiable. In fact, it is an affront to press freedom as guaranteed in Article 21(1)(a) and (f) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
With all due respect, the Ada Traditional Council does not have the right or powers to impose such restrictions on Radio Ada and its staff.
We also consider the barring of the three reporters of Radio Ada from wearing the paraphernalia of the radio station and particularly the mention of their names, a threat to their lives and that of their family. We should be mindful of how such public disclosure of names of journalists had led to the killing of such journalists and we should refrain from msuch actions.
We believe one major significance of festivals is to use the occasion to foster peace, unity and oneness of purpose among the people to promote the development of the community. We also recognize the concept of community radio as being the rallying force for the promotion of the culture and socio-economic development of the host communities.
Colleagues in the media, we understand the Ada Traditional Council has filed a complaint at the National Media Commission (NMC) against Radio Ada for professional misconduct. We commend the Traditional Council for taking such steps because that is one of the appropriate forums to seek redress on such matters.
However, the Ada Traditional Council violated the rules on complaint settlement of the NMC per the imposition of restrictions on the radio station and its reporters. Section 13(2) of the National Media Commission Act, 1993 (Act 449) provides: “A person who has lodged a complaint with the Commission shall, unless he withdraws the complaint, exhaust all avenues available for settling the issue by the Commission before a recourse to the courts”.
Since the complaint by the Ada Traditional Council is still pending, and has not been withdrawn, the Council violated the NMC rules of engagement for complaint settlement by constituting itself into a traditional court to punish the radio station and its staff.
On the way forward, the GJA calls on the Ada Traditional Council not to take the law into their own hands and that it should endeavor to use the due process of law to address its concerns. The Council must also refrain from actions that have the tendency to endanger the lives of the radio station and its staff.
We also advise Radio Ada and its staff to refrain from using insulting or unacceptable language in the discharge of their duties. They should endeavor to exhibit high professional standards at all times.
We, however, encourage them to continue to discharge their constitutional mandate as provided in Article 162(5) of the 1992 Constitution to hold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people of Ghana. They must continue to play the watchdog role of the media in the interest of the people.
We wish to encourage both the Ada Traditional Council and the management of Radio Ada to find amicable ways of resolving their differences. We urge them to consider each other as partners in development and work together to promote development in the area. The GJA is interested in seeing peace restored between the Ada Traditional Council and Radio Ada.
Colleagues in the media, we have discussed the case of Ada Radio with the leadership of the Ghana Police Service who have assured us of full protection for the staff of Radio Ada to enable them go about their normal duties. We believe calm will soon return to Ada so that development will also find space in the land through the vent provided by the media.
Colleagues in the media, may you indulge me to use this opportunity to wish Seth Kwaku Mensah Akroboto, a reporter of Ke FM in the Oti Region, speedy recovery. KMA, as he is popularly called, was among seven people who were involved in a gas explosion incident at Kpassa in the Nkwanta North District. Two of the victims are reported dead. But our brother and colleague is currently receiving treatment at the Burns Unit of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. May God be his Healer.
We also wish to take the opportunity again to express our deepest condolences to Bernard Koku Avle who lost his wife a week ago.
Thank you for your kind attention.