'Debate on Media Fund should be dispassionate'
News Date: 9th January 2014
The National Media Commission (NMC) has said it is ready to collaborate with all relevant stakeholders to establish and operate the Media Development Fund (MDF) correctly in accordance with the law and proper administrative procedures.
A statement signed by Ambassador Kabral Blay-Amihere, Chairman of the Commission, and copied to the Ghana New Agency on Tuesday said although the Commission considered the current debate on the Media Fund a very valuable contribution to the governance and growth of the media and freedom of expression in the country, such debate would become more productive "if it was carried out dispassionately and on the basis of established facts".
The statement recalled that the Government announced the establishment of the Media Development Fund in its budget statement presented to Parliament on 16th November 2011, and that the NMC welcomed the creation of the Fund in a letter to the late President John Evans Atta Mills on January 12, 2012.
"In that letter the NMC explained to President Mills that it had already made contacts with some stakeholders on the possibility of starting such a fund, and assured the President of the NMCâ€™s readiness to make recommendations on fundamental issues such as the composition of the Management Board or Trustees of the Fund; activities and programmes of the Fund; procedures and modalities for granting of support as well as criteria for qualifying for support from the Fund".
It said despite other informal contacts, notably with the then Minister of Information and Media Relations, Mr Fritz Baffour and his deputy, Mr Okudzeto Ablakwa, there was no official response from the Government. "Out of the blue and without any prior briefing, the NMC was invited to attend a 'meeting of stakeholders' at the Accra Conference Centre on 8th March 2012â€ť, it added.
According to the statement, Mr Fritz Baffour told the meeting that there was no prior intention of imposing the Ministryâ€™s views on anyone, and that the Commissionâ€™s representatives stated their opposition to the scheme being run from the Ministry of Information as being contrary to the spirit and letter of the 1992 Constitution.
"The NMC followed with a letter dated 23rd March 2012 to the Minister of Information in which it outlined its ideas on the Fund. The letter reminded the Minister of the constitutional mandates of the NMC and proposed a Board of Trustees to run the Fund."
It said the Board was to include representation from the NMC, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Information, GJA, Ghana Community Radio Network, PRINPAG, journalism training institutions, the Ministry of Justice and Attorney Generalâ€™s Department and GIBA which was inadvertently omitted in the letter.
The statement further indicated that at no time had the NMC or any of its members and officials acting on behalf of the Commission demanded that the Fund be handed over to the Commission to run on its own, and that despite its indisputable mandate for the development of the media in Ghana, the NMC ha bent over backwards to propose a consensual and cooperative administration of the Fund.
"The NMC has not at any time met with the Minister or any official of the Ministry of Information; neither has the NMC been part of any meeting at which the purchase of laptops from the Fund or any disbursement from the fund had been discussed.
"Indeed, the NMC itself has never discussed the modalities for supporting media houses from the Fund because the Commission felt that doing so would be to put the cart before the horse. The proper thing to do would be to establish the Fund legally and administratively before disbursing monies from it", it stated .
The statement said all documents relating to the MDF emanating from the NMC were public and available to everyone, and called on the Ministry of Information and Media Relations, as well as other institutions that had an interest in the ongoing debate to also publish or make available all relevant documents in their custody.