The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has been pressurizing government to pass a game-changing Broadcasting Law which is expected to ensure professional journalism. Though the passage of the law has delayed, parliament has passed a Legislative Instrument.
Last month, parliament passed the new Legislative Instrument (LI 2224) which enjoins media houses to obtain authorization for contents they produce or face a fine of not less than five thousand Ghana Cedis or a prison term of not less than two years.
Some operators in the broadcasting industry, however, believe the law is a subtle way of reintroducing the ‘criminal libel’ law which was repealed because it stifled freedom of the press. The Criminal Libel and Seditious Laws were repealed in July 2001 six months into the administration of the New Patriotic Party. The law criminalized libel, slander and sedition thereby prescribing harsh sentences including imprisonment for saying or publishing any false statements that damage a person’s reputation or incited citizens against government. The repeal didn’t mean that such behavior will go unpunished but gives citizens the option to use civil means to check the practice of journalism in Ghana. That is why the Ghana Independent Broadcasters association is heading to the Supreme Court to seek interpretation of the legislation.
More than 14 years after the repeal, there are growing concerns of irresponsible reportage and inappropriate content across some media platforms. Which is why parliament passed the Legislative instrument giving the national Media commission power to “check the excess” of the media.
Questions arise as to whether parliament has not given the National Media Commission too much power, and what the law will mean for private bloggers and other small time media persons.