Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Not paying Broadcast License
(Aired 21 July 2004)

   In 2001 after the last election, the government and the opposition agreed to a series of consultations as agreed to by President Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Hoyte to address the concerns of the Afro Guyanese and to move the country forward.

   In the three years since then, nothing has happened! The Dialog broke down and the Communiqué followed in short order.

   Over and over again I have told you that these talks broke down because the PPP agrees to one thing and something else completely different happens. Take the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting. The ACB which was supposed to be a temporary body [like the procurement Administration] but which the PPP will keep in perpetuity because it fits in with their plan to fetter free speech in this country just as the Procurement Administration which is not yet implemented I repeat it is not yet implemented facilitates corruption in the awarding of contracts.

   The VCT license to broadcast contains the following provisions as a prerequisite to being granted a license to broadcast television signals, and it is written on the license itself, so by paying the license fee I am agreeing to these conditions automatically. Here are these repressive conditions.

a)      The licensee shall ensure that nothing included in programmes which offends against good taste or decency or is likely to encourage or incite racial hatred or incite crime or lead to public disorder or to be offensive to public feeling.

b)      The licensee, acting reasonably and in good faith shall ensure that any news given (in whatever form) in the programme of the licensee is presented with due accuracy and impartiality.

c)      The licensee shall ensure that due impartiality is preserved by the person providing the service in regard to matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to public policy.

d)      The licensee shall ensure that due responsibility is exercised with respect to content of any religious programmes of the licensee and that in particular any such programmes does not involve any abusive or derogatory treatment of the religious views and beliefs of persons belonging to a particular religion or religious denomination.

e)      The programmes broadcast by the licensee shall be of the highest possible standard.

f)        The licensee shall provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to be exposed to the expression of differing views on matters of public interest

g)      The Licensee shall transmit on frequencies granted by the NFMU and at such standards approved by the NFMU

h)      The license is not transferable without the prior consent in writing of the Minister.

    How far does this nonsense go towards infringing our rights to free speech? Well lets look at a recent letter from the ACB to VCT which states inter alia that in a commentary recently aired I said that "the political currency of the Amerindian community is increasing daily and with the right leaders, they are in a position to call the shots in the next elections. But they must stand as one people united by their organisations the Amerindian Association of Guyana and the organisation of indigenous peoples, because if they do they can determine the outcome of the next elections.

    Here is what the ACB had to say about this simple observation aimed at alerting the Amerindians in this country that the PNC left office with 78% of them living below the poverty line and the PPP has increased that figure to 98% of them living below the poverty line but that they were in a position now to demand more say now to better their condition.

The ACB tells me in the masterpiece of nonsense they wrote me, that the advocacy of politics of one racial group voting racially as a unified racial group could obviously be replicated in every ethnic group in Guyana as for example the African and East Indian ethnic groups.

  This advocacy of racist and divisive politics offends against good taste and is offensive to public feeling and as such infringes 23 (A) (a) of your license.

   According to these geniuses there is no racial politics in Guyana, Vieira is the only one who is fuelling it. And by doing so I have offended all of you ladies and gentlemen and breached my license. Now contrary to all legal norms here we have two people sitting in judgement on what I am saying and without a hearing are deciding unilaterally what part of this broadcast license I breached, one a 70 odd year old PPP history teacher at the UG getting $2000 US per month to do this nonsense and the other a former announcer of GBC now aligned to the PPP, neither of whom are competent to decide these matters, the third Mr. Ron Case the PNC's nominee to the ACB but whose name has been withdrawn by the PNC, the government however with their usual contempt for the opposition have refused to remove him from the ACB. Without this third nominee there is no ACB. But they still keep collecting our money $2000 US each a month and are still telling us how unfair and unbalanced we are, instructed by their bosses the PPP.

   Well ladies and gentlemen I have decided not to pay my license fee for this year since all of these provisions offends my constitutional right to freedom of speech. The International Human Rights Association identifies free speech as follows:

   Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression this right shall include freedom to seek receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print in the form of art or through any other media of his choice.  The exceptions to this general principle carries with it the certain restriction but these are only such that are provided by law and are necessary: the international association recognises these two restrictions and only these two restrictions to freedom of speech:

(a)    For the respect of the rights or reputations of others.

(b)   For the protection of national security or for public order or of public health or morals.

   Where is all of this nonsense of fair and balance and with due impartiality coming from? I'll tell you where it is coming from, it is coming from a group of people who were educated in the USSR and betrayed the dialog and the recommendations of the bipartisan board on broadcasting to do one thing, to muzzle the television broadcasters and to strip them of the right to free speech. The PPP still has die-hards writing trash in the newspapers that the dialog was sabotaged by the PNC, I say that it was sabotaged by the PPP who will not negotiate in good faith, and if we have established anything so far we have established that I do not lie.

   In a case in the European court of the Sunday Times newspaper Vs the United Kingdom the following decision was handed down on 26th November 1991.

   Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society. It is applicable not only to information and ideas which are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive but also to those that offend shock or disturb. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no democratic society.  

   This is what free speech in a plural society is all about, not the nonsense attached to my license, by paying for it I will be putting myself under the obligation to listen to the political clap trap of the PPP's ACB, this is certainly not an impartial body and I will not be paying any license fee until these restrictions are removed from my license. Let us go to court and sort out this mess now.