Court directs MFWA to pay NCA GHC1, 500 for information on radio stations

Court directs MFWA to pay NCA GHC1, 500 for information on radio stations

A High Court has ordered the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) to pay the National Communications Authority (NCA) GH¢1,500 for information on the number of stations the Authority shut down in 2019.

The GH¢1,500 that MFWA has been asked to pay by the court is GH¢500 less than what the NCA had initially requested.

The Human Rights Court 2 Division ruled on Thursday, June 17, 2021, that the information being sought by the media rights organization was in the public interest and that the specific legal framework in force governing access to information in the country must override general provisions for law upon which various state institutions operate.

It thus ordered the NCA to reduce the GHS2,000 fee they charged MFWA initially to GHS1,500.00.

The MFWA in March this year dragged the NCA to court for failing to provide the list of all FM radio stations (indicating the name of the company, name of the radio station, location, and frequency number) that it had shut down following the Authority’s 2017 FM spectrum audit.

According to the MFWA, it is enforcing its rights to information under Article 21(1) (f) of the constitution by compelling the NCA to provide the information requested.

Executive Director of MFWA, Sulemana Braimah, on July 22, 2020, submitted an access to information request to the NCA to have a full list of all authorised FM stations as of the second quarter of 2020, with indications of the dates of first authorisation, dates of last authorisation renewals, locations, and operational status of the radio stations – that is whether they are on-air or off-air.

The MFWA’s request follows allegations that the NCA altered certain information from its published 2020 second-quarter report titled: “List of Authorised VHF-FM Radio Stations in Ghana as at Second Quarter 2020.”

The MFWA was seeking the following reliefs:

1. A declaration that the decision and demand by Respondent contained in its letters dated July 29, 2020, and August 20, 2020, complained about are unlawful, unreasonable, unfair, and in violation of Applicant’s constitutional and fundamental right to access information.

2. A declaration that the amount of GH¢2,000 demanded by Respondent from the Applicant in order to generate the information constitutes constructive denial, refusal, failure or neglect, and breach of Applicant’s right to information under Article 21(1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana

3. A declaration that the amount demanded is not only unlawful but unconscionably exorbitant in breach of the letter and spirit of Act 989 and Applicant’s fundamental rights to information

4. A declaration that the information requested by the Applicant is not subjected to a charge/fee; or in the alternative,

5. A declaration that if Applicant were liable to a charge/fee, the same ought to be an ascertainable amount to cover the actual cost of reproduction or photocopy of the information sought only.

However, in court on Thursday, the presiding judge, Justice Gifty Agyei Addo, relied on the Ernest Nyorgbe vs the Electoral Commission’s case and ordered the MFWA to pay GH¢1,500 for the information to be furnished.

While granting requests, 1, 2 and 4, the court exempted the request that the MFWA wanted to know reasons why the NCA made changes to exclude certain information from its published 2020 second-quarter report titled: “List of Authorised VHF-FM Radio Stations in Ghana as at Second Quarter 2020,” compared with other similar reports previously issued by the Authority.

By: Stella Annan |myactiveonline.com

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