Parliament could review NMC’s ‘absurd’ ‘repackaged criminal libel’ law

Parliament could review of a new law that empowers the National Media Commission to arbitrarily sanction broadcast houses that broadcast content without permission, Obuasi West MP has said.

Kwaku Kwarteng who is also a Member of Parliament’s Communications Committee admitted, parliament failed to scrutinize the controversial LI 2224 before it became law.

“I concede that this should have been given a closer attention than parliament did. That is why I say when parliament resumes we will need to get back to this matter”

Although Article 162 of the 1992 Constitution states “there shall be no censorship in Ghana”, the new LI is feared will seek to impose restrictions.

According to media practitioner and lawyer Samson Lardy Anyenini, the law is unconstitutional.

“It is the biggest provocation I have ever seen, the biggest joke, this is an absolute absurdity; it is such a big insult on the constitution.”

The LI designed by the NMC was submitted to the Subsidiary Legislations committee of parliament where it automatically matures into law after 21 sitting days.

An LI is not open to amendment by parliament and is either wholly accepted or wholly rejected.

Kwaku Kwarteng noted the LI was generally fine but it has a few clauses that need to be ironed out. But Parliament appeared to have turned a blind eye on the LI.

Media operators and practitioners now face the prospect of five-year jail term if they broadcast or publish content without authorization from the NMC.

But Kwaku Kwarteng maintained the “horse has not bolted”.

He wants the NPP and other political parties to descend on the LI described as “completely problematic”.

“We are just going back to the criminal libel era…in due course, parties will have to take a strong position on this” the MP noted.

The Criminal Libel and Seditious Laws were repealed in July 2001 six months into the administration of the New Patriotic Party.

The repeal de-criminalizes libel and gives citizens the option to use civil means to check the practice of journalism in Ghana.

The repeal has been hailed as having brought to “an end more than a century-old regime of laws repressive of free expression”.

But Chairman of the National Media Commission Kwasi Djan-Apenteng has dismissed suggestions that the Content Standards Regulations will gag or penalize the media. He explains it is rather to help media practitioners perform their duties responsibly.

Chairman of National Media Commission, Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng

He explained that the content authorisation is just making the NMC aware of what media operators are going to do on their shows.

“There’s nowhere in this LI that threatens journalism. It is not a new standard”, Gyan Apenteng assured.

According to him, “content regulation is not new in broadcasting. All over the world, broadcasting is regulated in different ways”.

The NMC says the LI is to preserve public morality and national security. It says LI 2224 will check media operators interested in broadcasting content that promote terrorism and pornography.

But an unconvinced Kwaku Kwarteng pointed out, “we have laws against terrorism”.

He expressed shock that appointed representatives could get powers to do what even elected representatives are not permitted by law to do.

Story by Ghana||Edwin Appiah|[email protected]

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