Draft Communications Act good, but needs wider consultation, says ARTICLE 19
The adoption, which was unanimous, followed a drafting process managed by the Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunications, which benefited from input from national and international experts and a public consultation process. A central objective of the Act is the establishment of a converged regulatory body, the National Communications Commission (NCC). The Act takes a framework approach; it goes into some detail regarding the powers and procedures of the NCC, but leaves many of the substantive rules governing the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors to be elaborated in subsequent laws or regulations adopted by the NCC.
ARTICLE 19 welcomes the adoption of the Act as well as the process followed in reaching this point. The TFG expressed a commitment to adhere to international standards and this intention is clearly in evidence in many parts of the Act. Particularly notable are the strong guarantees for transparency in the NCC's operations, which set a good example for the region and indeed the world at large. At the same time, ARTICLE 19 considers that in spite of the many positive features, the Act also has a number of significant weaknesses, particularly in terms of the safeguards for the NCC's independence. In this analysis, ARTICLE 19 provides a brief assessment of the Act, focusing on those parts relevant to the establishment and functioning of the NCC and the regulation of broadcasting.
At the same time, ARTICLE 19 regrets that the process of drafting this important piece of legislation was conducted without broad and extensive consultations with the stakeholders in the country. It has been reported that the drafting process has not been transparent and the possibility of the stakeholders' input and views has been extremely limited. Additionally, the draft version of the Act has allegedly not been publicly available and important stakeholders have not been able to contribute to the discussion on the text of the Act. ARTICLE 19 observes that the lack of such a process has led to criticism of the draft Act as such and questions of its legitimacy.
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