Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng, Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), on Wednesday said outside of broadcasting, the state should take action to protect people from the ravaging effects of the worst aspects of abuse under the guise of religion.
He said those activities were normally aimed at the poorest 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 audiences across the nation…”
Nana Gyan-Apenteng, who was speaking at the launch of Guidelines for Religious Broadcasting to improve the quality of religious broadcasting in the country, said they were not prescribing ways of worship for any religion; but to set standards for the broadcasting of religious activities, and to sanitise the airwaves.
The principles of the guidelines expect the media owners and operators to ensure that religious broadcast respects the constitutional provisions relating to freedom of religion and free expression; religious broadcast should appreciate the secular, multi culture, diversity of religions within the Ghanaian society as well as protect children and the vulnerable from exploitation, among others.
While the rules to the guidelines, among other things, expect owners and operators to always endeavour to promote cultural, moral and ethical values, respect personal freedom, rights, obligations and privacy; religious broadcasting should be used to promote for extremism, religious violence and recruitment of people for religious militancy.
Nana Gyan-Apenteng said the primary responsibility for content laid with the owners and operators of broadcasting stations, as they would be held accountable for breaches of these guidelines.
He said there are many religious groups in the country and “we accommodate one another without rancour. It is 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,” he added.
“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 said in some parts of the world, religious programming is used to discuss issues of morality and ethics in a bid to encourage citizens and audiences to re-evaluate their lives and contributions to their nation and communities.
He said: ‘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”.
The NMC Chairman noted that religious Broadcasting brings together two important attributes of democracy – the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion- which have both been 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,” he added.
Mrs Linda Asante-Agyei, the Vice President of the Ghana Journalists’ Association, commended the NMC and the Guidelines for Religious Broadcasting Committee for coming out with the guidelines, which would bring some sanity on the airwaves.
She urged the NMC to be bold to sanction anybody that would breach the guidelines to ensure peace and harmony in the sector.
Apostle Dr Alfred Koduah and Apostle Abraham Ofori-Kuragu, both Co-Chairs of the Guidelines for Religious Broadcasting Committee, were grateful for all organisations and individuals who in diverse ways contributed to the development of the guidelines.
They also commended Graphic Communication Group Limited for printing the guidelines free of charge.