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Government reverses decision to boycott media group

(MFWA/IFEX) - March 26, 2012 - A bitter stand-off between the Government of Ghana and Multimedia Group Limited (MGL), an Accra-based independent media group, has been resolved after a meeting between the two sides called at the instance of the Ghana Journalists' Association (GJA) and the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) on March 23, 2012.

“GIBA and GJA thanked both teams for the opportunity to discuss the issues. The Government side reiterated its commitment to expanding the frontiers of media freedom. MGL also listened to the concerns of Government, and GIBA and GJA expect that the media and government will continue to dialogue,” a statement issued by the two sides after the meeting said.

On March 20, a deputy minister of information, James Agyenim-Boateng, who announced the government's action, said it was necessary to protect the safety of its functionaries, who he alleged had no protection whenever they appeared on the programmes of the media group. The MGL, which includes Joy FM, Asempa FM, Luv FM, Nhyira FM, Hitz FM, Adom FM and Multi TV, was accused of consistent “bias.” On March 21, the deputy minister reiterated the government's decision and emphasised that the directive included all ministries, departments and agencies.

Earlier, the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) had boycotted the media group on the same grounds of “bias.”

The government's action was in reaction to an incident of near-violence at Asempa FM, one of the group's stations. On February 22, supporters of the major opposition New Patriotic Party besieged Asempa FM to protest what the opposition also claimed was bias against the party by Kwabena Bobbie Ansah, the host of an afternoon political discussion programme. The massing up of NPP supporters resulted in an abrupt end of the day's programme. The programme later came on air without Bobbie Ansah, who is alleged to have been suspended by managers of the company.

“In light of the large development on Asempa FM which led to a mob of NPP people led by [NPP National Youth organiser] Anthony Karbo storming the station, this incident for example did not find any space in the news bulletin of Joy FM, and so by their conduct they have shown that they cannot be a fair and neutral party. “We consider that not in our interest... more importantly, we cannot guarantee the safety of our people when they appear on their stations,” Agyenim-Boateng told the Accra-based CitiFM.

MGL has since denied the government's claims.

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