Media regulator closes 34 radio stations, sanctions another 97

Expression 

On 28th September 2017, Ghana National Communications Authority (NCA), the national media regulator, shut down 34 radio broadcasting stations and fined 97 others due to their failure to renew their authorisation three months before the expiration date, as required by the law. Radio stations Montie FM, aligned with the opposition party National Democratic Congress, Hello FM and Kapital Radio are among those affected. For the other 97, fines range from 50,000 GHC (11,000 USD) to 61,000,000 GHC (13.8 million USD), with the fines reduced by 50 percent on 20th October. A full list of the outlets affected by the shut-down and fines can be found here. Meanwhile, Chris Ackumey - a private legal practitioner and member of the legal team of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) - has sued the NCA over its decision, seeking that the court declare the sanctions illegal. Roland Affail Monney, president of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), reacted to the NCA's decision, stating that: 

"We are against any attempt to hound any media house or any media practitioner out of operations through the imposition of fines or any other means. It is something we frown upon and something we shall resist".

A group of youth calling themselves Kumasi Youth Association attacked the regional office of the private newspaper Daily Guide in Kumasi on 11th October. The perpetrators locked up the offices and left threatening graffiti stating "Be warned, Daily Guide". The incident relates to an article mentioning the Asantehene, king of the Ashanti ethnic group, in a case of suspected money laundering, which is being heard in a UK court.

The Ashanti Regional Police Command arrested Frank Kwaku Appiah, popularly known as Appiah Stadium, on 26th September and transferred Appiah to the Criminal Investigations Department, charging him with causing fear and panic for insulting the president, according to Joy Online. Appiah is a serial caller and commentator affiliated with the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), and alleged that the president smokes marijuana in a widely circulated audio. Two days later, on 28th September President Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo informed the police he is not interested in pursuing the case. 

According to Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the traditional chief of Wassa Akropong in western Ghana humiliated journalist Larry Saint of Rivers FM on 10th October. Omanhene Tetre Akuamoah Sekyim II allegedly summoned Saint to his palace and questioned him for critical remarks that Saint had made about the chief on a Whatsapp platform for local journalists. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 25th October 2017, the police denied approval for the route of a planned march by the Alliance for Responsible Citizens (AFRC) against the National Communications Authority (NCA), in response to the closure of 34 radio stations and sanctions against 97 other radio stations (see section above). The police cited insufficient numbers of officers to ensure the safety of the protesters as their main reason, but the move was criticised by the organisers as being politically motivated.

On 28th October 2017, Ghana police officers arrested 26 Togolese nationals for staging an unlawful protest over the political situation in their country, Togo. The police claim that about 300 Togolese nationals gathered, without prior notice to the authorities and in breach of the public order act. Ghana has seen an influx of Togolese refugees in response of the political crisis in neighboring Togo, with 513 registered asylum seekers. On 31st October, the Accra Circuit Court granted bail to the detained Togolese at 10,000 GHS (2,200 USD) each.

Several other peaceful protests took place over various grievances. On 2nd October, aggrieved taxi drivers in Accra peacefully protested against the recent rise in petroleum prices, marching from one media house to another to express their concerns over the decision of the Akufo- Addo administration to increase fuel prices. On 8th October 2017, about 100 residents of Ritz junction in Accra protested for the removal of a gas station within their neighbourhood after a recent gas explosion at another location, Atomic junction.