Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017

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Advisory committee on Broadcasting
(Aired 8 September 2002)

    In July this year the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting, a committee which was set up as a result of the Jadgeo/Hoyte dialog, began submitting monthly reports to the Prime Minister.

    In the first report dated 27th June 2002 channels 6, 9, 11, 65, 69 and 28 were identified as HAVING BREACHED the conditions of their licenses i.e. chapter 47.01 post and telegraph act and were warned publicly in the print media based on a release by the Prime Minister's office that they were guilty of violations ranging from advise, to strong advise, to possible revocation of their licenses.

    This held us all up to public ridicule and contempt and it was done arbitrarily and without any form of consultation whatsoever with the broadcasters concerned. It was therefore against any form of natural justice.

    At the retreat which was held on the 23rd of august 2002, I asked the members of the ACB, how they could have done such a thing, their response were that the release came from the Prime Minister's office and not them, I was however forced to point out to these goodly gentlemen, that it was on their arbitrary assessment of transgressors, without a hearing, that the PM's office issued the release. The members of the ACB apologized to the broadcasters and promised that nothing of the sort will occur in the future.

    I have been waiting for some sort of public release from the PM and or the ACB apologizing to the broadcasters who were identified as breaching the conditions of their licenses without a hearing, but none has been forthcoming. In my own case VCT 28 was identified as allowing Jerome Khan to attack the IDB making unsubstantiated allegations with doubtful accuracy, and infringes condition [b] of the license.

    The license to broadcast in this country contain the following condition as a modification to the wireless and telegraphy regulations 23A sub (b) and states that quote "the licensee acting reasonably and in good faith shall ensure that any news given in whatever form in the programmes of the licensee, is presented with due accuracy and impartiality"

   I feel that it is necessary to point out some simple facts to the goodly Prime Minister and the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting, and here I quote from the International Human Rights Association's Lord Lester a highly respected retired British supreme court judge, who performed with such distinction that he was awarded a lordship he says " the state's powers to license Broadcasting must not be used, directly or indirectly, to impose unnecessary restrictions upon the contents of broadcast programs, or the freedom and independence of broadcasters and journalists, or to use means tending to impede free expression, such as the operation of monopolies and oligopolies which have this effect"  

    This means that the ACB is skirting dangerously close to infringing our constitutional right to freedom of speech, since and I quote Lester again "the Guyana 1980 constitution notwithstanding that it was crafted for a socialist national culture, guarantees fundamental human rights and freedoms, provisions which can be amended only by a special parliamentary two thirds majority or by a popular referendum. By virtue of article 153 (1) [of the Guyana constitution] if any person alleges that any of the provisions or any of his rights has been, is being, or is likely to be, contravened in relation to him, he may apply to the high court for redress. The human rights provisions of Guyana's constitution have plainly been influenced by the European convention on human rights and by the international Human rights covenant"

    So ladies and gentlemen I am advocating caution and intelligent interpretation in how the ACB enforces this clause (b) since if indiscriminately done, it can have the effect of contravening the constitution and no laws or regulations can ever be made which conflicts with the provisions of the constitution, which stands supreme.

    In a previous comment I said to the public that and I quote, "ladies and gentlemen you and I have come to an understanding regarding these commentaries, and I can speak frankly since I do not say anything I cannot substantiate, we as a nation have corrupted high officials in the US Embassy and the Canadian High Commission namely Carroll and Mc Innis, so let me phrase this carefully, the operation of the IDB in this country leaves us with far more questions than it gives answers and since it is us as a nation who are responsible for paying these debts, we should ask the top officials of the IDB in Washington, to investigate the local operation of the IDB in Guyana.     

    I did not make that statement lightly ladies and gentlemen the grouses between the local contractors association and the IDB and the central tender board is heavily laden with evidence that suggests that the IDB must be investigated, as to their operations in Guyana. The Hague and Novell Flanders contracts awarded a few months ago clearly established that the IDB and the Central Tender Board, broke the law in this country, by offering the Novell Flanders contract as a continuation of the Hague one, nowhere in our laws are they authorized to do so. It was a new contract for 22 million Guyana dollars and should have been offered to the public bidding process.

   The ACB therefore must understand that I have a right as a citizen of this country to say that this is totally unacceptable and so does Jerome Khan.  

    Ladies and gentlemen the bipartisan committee set up as a result of the dialog, decided that the three members of this advisory committee should be constituted as follows, one nominated by the president, one nominated by leader of the opposition and one by the Private Sector Commission, that was fair enough, I have however been unable to discover the date the Private Sector Commission met and decided on their nominee... and why no private broadcaster was consulted in the process of doing so, now to be fair, ladies and gentlemen, many members of the PSC if not most of them that I have spoken to, do not recall making this nomination and they are as outraged as I am at the situation.

  The fact is however, that the Private Sector Commission through its then chairman nominated someone to this board without convening a meeting of PSC members and without consulting even one private broadcaster, I happen to know who and how, this member for the board, from the PSC was selected and it is very, very sick indeed.

    The previous chairman of the Private Sector Commission [not the one currently occupying that position] owes me and the other private broadcasters in this country an explanation and an apology.... and we want it! Do not play games with my rights sir, or I will crucify you publicly, I am showing you the tip of the iceberg here in this commentary, I however stand prepared to expose it for the public. You are no longer Chairman but you have left a person on this ACB board who was not in fact nominated by the members of the Private Sector Commission, the correct thing to do now is for the PSC to meet, call in a delegation of private broadcasters and key members of civil society and after consulting with them, recommend a person who meets the criteria as set out in the dialog process.