The Member of Parliament (MP) for the Sekondi Constituency, Andrew Agyapa Mercer, has contradicted public claims by Minister of Communications and Member of Parliament (MP) for Ablekuma West, Ursula Gifty Owusu-Ekuful, that the continuous closure of radio stations critical of the Akufo-Addo government, is as a result of the stations having a bad case, leading to them being thrown out of court.
But her colleague MP and party member, has revealed that contrary to the claim by the Minister, the stations, rather failed to meet a deadline handed them during a meeting in Parliament to withdraw the case from court, in effect, the radio station did not lose the litigation.
According to Mr Mercer, there is a letter authored by Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful, in which she told the Communications Committee of Parliament that “she has changed her mind” and was not going to renew the licenses of the radio stations, because they could not meet a deadline to withdraw the case from court. But the claim of a deadline was denied by a staff of the defunct Radio XYZ; Eric Ahianyo,
Popular media houses, such as Radio Gold, Radio XYZ, Montie FM and a few others dotted across the country, have been closed down with the excuse by the National Communication Authority (NCA) that, their licenses have not been renewed for years.
The closures, have widely been condemned after it was revealed by some of the media houses involved that, they made every effort to meet their obligations with NCA led by Joe Anokye, but they were denied a chance by the regulator.
The Communications Minister, who has supervisory role over the NCA, had in an interview with JoyNews after the recent Station of the Nation Address (SoNA) among others, claimed the reason the likes of Radio Gold, were still off air is because they were thrown out of court.
According to her, following the revocation of their licenses by the NCA, Radio Gold in particular, had gone to court, but were thrown out.
Ursula Owusu, mocked that the radio station tried to seek refuge in the Electronic Tribunal, but that also fell flat with the tribunal endorsing the NCA action.
According to her, “So, if you have a radio station which has been operating for 16 years without renewing it authorization, and it is shutdown in accordance to law, you take it to the tribunal and the tribunal says, the NCA, was right in what it is doing, you take it to court and you are thrown out, how is it undemocratic?
Ursula charged on “You are enjoined, there are rules governing the conduct of every activity in this country, we have laws passed by this House, which they as lawmakers ought to respect.The law says and they tested the law in all the courts, in the electronic tribunal and lost. They filed matters before the court and discontinued those matters, how is it undemocratic”?
She said this while reacting angrily to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Minority walkout of the SoNA by President Akufo-Addo.
But the Sekondi MP, during a television show last week, said that following the closure of the stations in May last year, the Communications Committee of Parliament, together with the NCA, the Communications Ministry and the radio stations involved, held a meeting where they agreed that the stations go to court and withdraw the case and have their licenses renewed.
The radio stations, especially Radio Gold, insists they did as directed by the Committee, but the Communications Minister, has blocked every effort to have them back.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Laterbiokorshie based station, James Agyenim-Boateng, disclosed this weeks ago, when the issue of the closure of the radio stations came up again during the World Radio Day.
To build his case, James sent a copy of the letter sent to the NCA to Metro Television’s Randy Abbey, indicating that they had done their part of the directive but the regulator has failed to even dignify them with a response.
Speaking on Metro TV’s Good Morning programme on Thursday, Lawyer Mercer, who is the Vice Chair of the Communications Committee of Parliament, said the stations were given a two-week deadline to embark on this directive, but they were unable to meet it warranting their continuous closedown.
According to the lawyer, Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful, after the deadline elapsed wrote back to the Committee that she was not going to renew their licenses, because “she has changed her mind” as they could not meet the agreed time.
“I have a copy of the letter, she said that at the time that we reached the agreement, the media houses were supposed to withdrew their case from court within a certain time frame. …Two weeks after that, they had still not done that and so they were not prepared to proceed with the mediation”.
The Sekondi MP, in response to a message to host; Randy Abbey, Eric Ahianyo of Radio XYZ, revealing what the Minister told the Committee’s Chairman, Fredrick Opare-Ansah, charged “ask him whether that agreement for them to discontinue their action in court was reached and further ask him, whether indeed the threshold that was given them was met”,
Eric’s defense which was read said “I was present at all time that we met the Communications Committee of Parliament ,what Andrew is saying is not factual! The committee chair was changed, new chair Opare-Ansah, said the Communications Minister, wrote a letter after six months of keeping us in waiting, that she has changed her mind”.
From all indications, Ursula whose claim to fame is by launching vitriolic attacks on her political opponents, is trying to show the stations where power lies.
During the discussion on Speaker of Parliament directive to the media to focus on reporting on issues that happens in the Chamber or forfeit the privilege offered them to report from the House, MP for Tamale North, Alhassan Suyuhini, expressed worry over the gradual attempt by the government to gag the media citing among others, the closure of the stations.
Mr Mercer’s, disclosures revealed the power that Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful wields in Akufo-Addo government. It was revealed the disclosure of the radio station, which has led to the hundreds of people losing their jobs has ulterior motives, rather than genuine attempts to enforce regulatory requirements.