Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng
Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng, Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), on Wednesday said the state should take action to protect people from the ravaging effects of the worst aspects of abuse under the guise of religion.
These abuses, he disclosed, often times are targeted at the poor and most vulnerable people in the society.
“We must be particularly concerned about too many cases of children being abused as part of the religious ceremonies that are broadcast to audience across the nation.”
He was speaking at the launch of “Guidelines for Religious Broadcasting” designed to improve the quality of religious broadcasting.
He said the Commission was not prescribing ways of worship for any religion but set standards for the broadcasting of religious activities to sanitise the airwaves.
Media owners and operators are expected to ensure that constitutional provisions relating to freedom of religion and free expression are respected.
Nana Gyan-Apenteng added that religious broadcast should not only appreciate the secular, multi-culture and diversity of religions within the Ghanaian society, but also protect children and the vulnerable from exploitation.
It’s expected that the owners and operators would always endeavour to promote cultural, moral and ethical values, respect personal freedom, rights, obligations and privacy.
The NMC Chairman said that under no circumstance should religious broadcasting be used to promote extremism, religious violence and recruitment of people for religious militancy.
Nana Gyan-Apenteng reminded the owners and operators of their primary responsibility for content and said they would be held accountable for any breaches.
“There are many religious groups in the country and we accommodate one another without rancour. It’s in the same spirit that one would want to see religious broadcast practices as an edifying activity that lifts and inspires the nation.”
“Unfortunately, what we see is not always what we would expect… Over the years, I have received more complaints about religious broadcasting than with any other media activity.
“We cannot tar all religious broadcast with the same brush; some are very good and enlightening but many of the religious programmes on radio and television, the main activities appear to be concerned with satisfying the egos of their operators and leaders.”
“The freedom we enjoy today did not just drop from the skies; it is the result of struggles waged by citizens over many years and in the many forms. It has required sacrifices on the part of many citizens, especially journalists and other media practitioners, who have had to face many difficulties and challenges.”
Nana Gyan-Apenteng spoke of the practice in some parts of the world, where religious programming was used to discuss issues of morality and ethics in a bid to encourage citizens and audience to re-evaluate their lives and contributions to their nation and communities.
“Religious broadcast must be a tool for dialogue and interfaith cooperation in the country instead of preaching division, suspicion and hatred among the people; it must encourage people and give them hope; it must lead the nation to the high ground of good citizenship and responsible neighbourliness.”
He stated that religious broadcasting needed to bring together two important attributes of democracy – the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion, both duly acknowledged in the 1992 Constitution.
In line with the constitutional right to freedom of worship, many religious groups have developed broadcasting content as a means to reach their adherents and other audiences.
This has led to a large number of radio and television stations and programmes that fall into the category of religious broadcasting.
Linda Asante-Agyei, Vice President of the Ghana Journalists’ Association, commended the NMC and the Guidelines for Religious Broadcasting Committee for coming out with the guidelines, which she said would bring sanity on the airwaves.
She urged the Commission to be bold to sanction those who breached the guidelines.
Apostle Dr Alfred Koduah and Apostle Abraham Ofori-Kuragu, Co-Chairmen of the Guidelines for Religious Broadcasting Committee, said they were grateful to all for the strong support.