The National Media Commission (NMC) has confirmed that it has received a petition from the government over the ‘Castle militia’ documentary produced by the Multimedia Group and Manasseh Azure, an investigative journalist of the group.
The Chairman of the NMC, Mr Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh, who confirmed this to the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, said per the mandate of the NMC, the complaints from the government would be forwarded to the Multimedia Group and Azuri “and they will have seven days to respond”.
He further explained that upon receipt of the responses to the complaints, the NMC would have to forward same to the complainants, “and where they find the explanations satisfactory, the case will end there”.
However, he said, should the complainant insist that the matter be investigated, the NMC would then fix a date for hearing and make its preliminary comments known as to the way forward.
“As it stands now, we are strictly going by the laid down procedures because we do not want to prejudice the case in favour of one party against the other, so we will wait until we fully exhaust the process,” he said.
The petition, dated March 13, 2019 and signed by the Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, was addressed to the Chairman of the NMC.
It said: “Respectfully, the Government of Ghana brings this complaint pursuant to Article 167(b) of the 1992 Constitution, as well as Section 2(1) (b) of the National Media Commission Act, 1993 (Act 449), and invites you to investigate the publication, the subject matter of this complaint.
“Specifically, the impugned publication is a twenty-two (22)-minute Joy News documentary titled ‘Militia in the heart of the Nation’ which was aired in the evening of Thursday, 7th March, 2019.
Subsequently, parts of the said documentary were aired on Joy FM, Adom FM, Asempa FM and the various affiliates of Joy FM, Adom FM and Asempa FM at various times around the country.
The documentary was prepared by Manasseh Awuni Azure, a journalist with Multimedia Broadcasting Company Limited (Multimedia).”
“In accordance with Section 15 of Act 449, we pray your outfit for the following reliefs: that first; a declaration to the effect that the impugned documentary by Azure and Joy News is misleading and constitutes a dishonest and deliberate misrepresentation of facts and calculated at causing undue public apprehension, alarm and panic; secondly, an order for the retraction of and apology to the Government of Ghana on the contents of the said documentary referred to above, and finally further disciplinary measure(s) as your commission may seem meet,” it said.
Explaining the rationale for the government’s action, the petition said: “We bring this complaint because the substance of the story complained of is in various material essentials utterly false, a product of gross misrepresentation of facts, wild speculation by the producer of the documentary specified above and same betrays a desperate attempt on the part of Multimedia and Awuni to vilify the sincere effort by the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to end the worrying phenomenon of political vigilantism in the country.”
Backing the petition with its own evidence, including footages of the documentary on various platforms of the media in and outside the country, the petition said: “The documentary deliberately omitted to state the material fact that the National Security Council Secretariat had closed down the purported office of the company since October 2018.
“Indeed, as of the date of publication of the documentary in March 2019, there was no activity of whatsoever nature by the company at the Castle.
At the time of airing the documentary, Multimedia played it to create the false impression to the public that such a false activity was ongoing on the premises of the Osu Castle.
“The mischief at the time of airing was to muddy the waters at the same time when the President was taking steps to sanitise the political environment of all acts of ‘vigilantism’”.
It said the assertion that the Castle, Osu, was an annex of the Presidency being used as a "security zone" to train militia and vigilantes was sensationalism of the highest order.
The facts showed that since March 2017, the Castle, Osu, had not been a "security zone", neither had it been an annex to the Presidency, it said.
It further said the said Castle was a facility operated by the Museums and Monuments Board, after President Akufo-Addo had, on March 5, 2017, tasked the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture to spearhead its transformation into a museum.
Meanwhile, as of the time of going to press, Azuri told the Daily Graphic that he was yet to be served with a copy of the petition from the complainant and pledged to furnish the paper with any such information as and when he received a copy.