We must question whether it is the right destination or not, and nobody should be held blameable.
Mr Speaker, when we lived under the criminal libel regime, people who made applications and sought cover under that regime were not blamed. The law existed for them to explore and exploit. When as a country, led by the current President, came to the realisation that the criminal libel laws were doing more harm than good to this country, we revisited some and indeed took them away.
Former President Rawlings was not the one who crafted the criminal libel laws of this country. It had been here with us since independence. So, Mr Speaker, let us be factual.
I heard somebody said that we are trying to kill a mosquito with a sledge hammer. I do not want to believe that that person was quoting former President John Dramani Mahama. He said he was going to kill a mosquito with a sledge hammer. Even when former President Kufuor appealed to him, he reiterated the point that,
“Mr Kufuor, I am going to kill a mosquito with a sledge hammer.”
We are not revisiting that era.
Mr Speaker, people applauded what was said by the then President -- and did I hear people say that the radio stations and television stations had complied largely with the terms and conditions? There were a few that they had not complied with. That might as well be, but what are we talking about?
Mr Speaker, we are in this country when in 2016, some political parties complied basically with many of the laws regulating their activities. A few of them had not been complied with. The Electoral Commission
sanctioned them. We hailed it that the Electoral Commission was living up to its billing.
Mr Speaker, today, the same people are saying that we are not applying the rules rightly. If we are principled, we must be very consistent. Did I hear people say that, well it does not make sense to slap a fine of say GH¢1 million on a station and if it is unable to pay, we withdraw the frequency and then sell it at GH¢30,000?
Mr Speaker, we must question the morality of it as a people. But is it not the case that people have gone outside, laboured, brought in vehicles and are unable to pay duties of GH¢80,000 and GH¢100,000, the State takes it away from them and sell and people in this House benefited. We did not complain. They did not complain. [Interruptions] -- Please, be principled.
When they benefited, it was all right. Today, they are saying that it is not good. Let us be principled and consistent.
Mr Speaker, yes, article 21 of the Constitution talks about freedom of the media and speech freedom of which was reinforced by article 162 (1) and (2) but we must be minded of the restrictions that are imposed by article 164. No country grants unfettered freedom of the media. No country on this earth does that. It is nowhere in the world. We must be consistent and principled.
Mr Speaker, I agree with Hon Ayariga when he says to us that, perhaps, we must give some transition period and encourage people to pay the fines that have been imposed. To borrow his own words, we should not be overzealous. But if there is any cause for overzealousness, that was provided by this House.
So, Mr Speaker, if we need to revisit the laws, let us do so as a collective. But the application of sanctions and compliance. Recently, what happened with the gas explosion, many people in this House were calling for the application and indeed, the enforcement of the rules and regulations relating to the siting of gas stations.
In one breadth, we are urging the authorities to enforce compliance, when we think we have our backs to the wall, no, do not be too hard on us. Consistency and principles would stand us out as individuals and as a group.
Mr Speaker, I heard somebody say that this House does not approve of any gazette notification. I do not know of any statute that compels approval from this House of gazette notification. Where from that? Indeed, sentiments can ferry people to some destinations that perhaps they do not want to go to.
Mr Speaker, again, we are being told that, if those radio stations were non- compliant, then why were they taking fees and levies from them? A person builds a house and serves himself with electricity and water and at the end of every month, the Electricity Company of Ghana would visit you and take their rates from you and the Ghana Water Company would also do same.
But to the extent that the person did not have the permit to build that House then the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) would tell the person that, he did not have any permit therefore, it is an unauthorised structure.
The fact that Ghana Water Company and the Electricity Company of Ghana take
their own rates and levies from the house owner would not legitimise that house. It is as crystal clear as that.
Mr Speaker, with respect, it appears as an absurdity of the highest order, to have people who have contributed to making the law now refuse to subject themselves to the application of the law. It is an absurdity of the highest order.
Mr Speaker, I heard my Hon Colleague, Hon A. B. Fuseini Alhassan, say that no matter how fat a leg is, it cannot compare itself with the thigh. Mr Speaker, but one question is, is the thigh not part of the leg? I thought that he was talking about the calf and not the leg.
The thigh is certainly part of the leg. Mr Speaker, so, I believe that, we are all ad idem on the fact that what is being done now is not outside the law. If we agree that the law and the sanctions that the law imposes are harsh, then, let us say so and re-visit the law that we have made. Perhaps, we thought that we were aiming at some other radio stations but now, whatever the intention was, if we have to revisit the law, then let us do so as a collective entity.
Mr Speaker, but let nobody blame the Hon Minister and let nobody blame the current President. We did it ourselves and so let us live up to our responsibilities.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity granted.