The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has condemned the decision of the Ada Traditional Council to ban Radio Ada, a community radio, from covering the just ended Asafotufiami Festival.
The association said although it appreciated the concerns of the Ada Traditional Council that three show hosts used “unrefined language” on the chiefs, the decision to ban the media outlet from performing its mandate was unjustifiable.
The President of the GJA, Albert K. Dumfour, made the pronouncement at a press conference in Accra on Thursday after a fact-finding mission to Ada in a response to The Fourth Estate publication on the sidelining of the station.
“With all due respect, the Ada Traditional Council does not have the right or powers to impose such restrictions on Radio Ada and its staff.”
Clothing the association’s stance in the law, he stated that the council’s stance was an affront to press freedom as guaranteed in Article 21(1)(a) and (f) of the 1992 Constitution and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
“We also consider the barring of the three reporters of Radio Ada from wearing the paraphernalia of the radio station and particularly the mention of their names, a threat to their lives and that of their family,” the GJA president continued.
He, however, commended the Ada Traditional Council for filing a complaint at the National Media Commission (NMC) against Radio Ada for professional misconduct. But was quick to add that the Ada Traditional Council violated the rules on complaint settlement of the NMC per the imposition of restrictions on the radio station and its reporters.
According to him, Section 13(2) of the National Media Commission Act, 1993 (Act 449) provides that, “A person who has lodged a complaint with the Commission shall, unless he withdraws the complaint, exhaust all avenues available for settling the issue by the Commission before a recourse to the courts”.
“Since the complaint by the Ada Traditional Council is still pending and has not been withdrawn, the Council violated the NMC rules of engagement for complaint settlement by constituting itself into a traditional court to punish the radio station and its staff,” Mr. Dumfour opined.
The GJA, therefore, called on the Ada Traditional Council not to take the law into its own hands but should endeavor to use the due process of law to address its concerns.
It further encouraged both the Ada Traditional Council and the management of Radio Ada to find amicable ways of resolving their differences.
“We urge them to consider each other as partners in development and work together to promote development in the area. The GJA is interested in seeing peace restored between the Ada Traditional Council and Radio Ada,” he said.
In January this year, some thugs attacked Radio Ada and vandalized its properties.
To prevent a recurrence of the incident, the GJA said it has received assurances from the police that the station would be protected.
“We have discussed the case of Ada Radio with the leadership of the Ghana Police Service who have assured us of full protection for the staff of Radio Ada to enable them to go about their normal duties. We believe calm will soon return to Ada so that development will also find space in the land through the vent provided by the media,” he said.
This year’s edition of the Asafotufiami Festival which is the 85th is on the theme: ‘Uniting the Ada State through our cultural heritage and use of our natural resources’ began on Thursday, August 4, 2022, and ended on Thursday, August 11, 2022.
The festival commemorated the bravery of the ancestors and founding fathers who fought tirelessly and sacrificed to establish the Ada State.
Traditional authorities vs chiefs
This is not the first a journalist is getting in trouble with traditional authorities for what traditional rulers describe as disrespect for their authority.
In April 2019, the Oguaa Traditional Council in the Central Region detained a correspondent of the state-owned Daily Graphic for an hour for reporting on the confusion that erupted at the launch of the 2019 Fetu Afahye in Cape Coast.
In October 2017, the Paramount Chief of Wassa Akropong in the Western Region, Omanhene Tetre Akuamoah Sekyim II, reportedly summoned Larry Saint, a reporter for Rivers FM, to his palace and questioned the journalist over critical remarks he made about him on a WhatsApp platform. The chief subsequently forced Larry Saint to kneel in the sun for about three hours.
The treatment meted out to Larry followed the killing of a native of the gold-mining town by a Chinese national on October 7, 2017. Larry Saint reportedly posted a comment on a WhatsApp platform for local journalists in which he accused the chief of showing no interest in the welfare of the youth.