Sophia Akuffo – NMC content law was blocked for lack of clarity
The Chief Justice nominee, Sophia Akuffo, has explained that, the Supreme Court’s decision to strike out the National Media Commission (NMC) law, was largely because it lacked specifics, and not because they sought to shield irresponsible media owners.
The NMC law was introduced to compel media owners to apply for content authorization, submit programme guide and content for approval or in default pay a fine or serve between two and five years jail term.
The Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), which was dissatisfied with the new regulations, filed a suit at the Supreme Court to strike out the new law, arguing that some of the regulations were an affront to freedom of speech and the rights and freedoms granted to the media under Article 162 of the 1992 Constitution.
In a unanimous decision in November 2016, a seven-member panel, led by Justice Akuffo, held that certain regulations in the NMC (Content Standards) Regulations 2015 (L.I. 2224) amounted to censorship and contravened Article 162 Clause (4) of the 1992 Constitution.
Justice Akuffo, explaining some aspects of the panel’s reasoning during the vetting, said they considered aspects of the NMC’s regulations to be too broad and only asked them to return to the court with specifics.
“The balance is that, in the matter against the media commission, regulations were being made which were over-broad without specificity and carried all kinds of sanctions, therefore, what we were calling on the commission to do was to go back to the drawing board.”
She further explained that, the court was only asking the NMC to go back to the “drawing board and be more specific.”
Review media regulations
Her comment comes in the wake of a complaint against three television stations believed to be showing movies with pornographic scenes, which has reignited the debate on the need for standards, which will regulate the content churned out by various media houses.
A legal practitioner, Samuel Bartels, is one of such persons who argues that media content should be reviewed to effectively address the challenges associated with the evolution of broadcasting.