Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017

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Chapultepec
(Aired 1 June 2011)

I have decided to place on record the fact that the current laws regarding broadcasting licenses are not acceptable to me. I do not accept them and I have in fact on behalf of all broadcasters rejected them in the Supreme court, it recorded as case #    of .... No.,,, as far as I know it is still on going and, I will come to it shortly.

  First of all I would like to point out that in 2004 the President of Guyana Mr. Jagdeo signed the treaty of Chapultepec the provisions of which are recorded below; the laws referred to by Edghill in his letter to the ACB complaining that Sharma had violated his license about fair and balanced, good taste etc. which were written in 2001 became obsolete when Mr. Jagdeo signed this treaty. Here is what was written by Edghill to the ACB: he refers to the post and telegraph act #47: 2001 when these conditions were put on all private broadcasters' licenses regulation 23A:

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

(b)                "The licensee, acting responsibly 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;"

(d)                "The licensee shall ensure that due responsibility is exercised with respect to the content of any religious programmes of the licensee and that, in particular, any such programme 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;"

After Mr. Jagdeo signed this treaty in 2004, on behalf of all broadcasters I refused to pay the license fee and took the government to court to have these conditions quoted by Edghill removed from my license, since they were no longer applicable, the judge upheld my position on the conditions being removed from my license pending  the outcome of a trial, as a result the repressive conditions of the license outlined in the Edghill letter were removed from my license since, I believe, 2007 and I suspect by extension from all private television broadcast licenses as well, I was however ordered to pay the license fees which I did. This matter is still, I believe, subjudice. This takes care of the Laws in the preamble of Edghill's letter about fair and balanced broadcasting using obsolete laws. Here are the 10 conditions of the treaty of Chapultepec and the explanation of them modified slightly by me, not as to content but to make them more understandable to the common man. I want to repeat that Mr. Jagdeo singed this treaty since 2004, the laws referred to by Edghill were temporary laws not to be in effect longer than 6 months to one year until the Broadcast Authority was formed and were written in 2001, and are completely offensive to the treaty of Chapultepec which Mr. Jagdeo signed in 2004.

     Immediately after signing the treaty of Chapultepec in 2004, Mr Jagdeo was obliged to change the laws of Guyana to comply with the treaty he signed, so these repressive laws written in our broadcast act in 2001 should have been modified and the Broadcast Authority which he promised Hoyte to form during the dialog, should have been put in place years ago. I am also informed by the opposition that the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting cannot be existing at this time, since, a very important  member, the member nominated by the opposition, was removed by them. It is true that someone was nominated in 2001 but his performance since then has been so poor that they have withdrawn his name, he nevertheless continues to pretend to function at the ACB as if he is their nominee.  If this man has no shame that those who nominated him want him to be removed and continues to function there for the money alone, then the public should be informed, I am however authorised to tell you that the opposition who appointed him wants him removed and they refuse to accept that there is an ACB until they do, so in this case and viewed in this manner, the law setting up the ACB has been violated since one of the main signatories, the PNC, has no nominee of their choice on the ACB. This leaves, as in this case, channels which are not excuse makers for the PPP open to unfair sanctions.

     Here are the main parts of the treaty of Chapultepec. Which I did as a commentary and was aired in Guyana on 15th May 2009.

    The ten principles of Chapultepec were adopted by the Hemispheric Conference on Free Speech in Mexico City on the 11th March 1994. Guyana signed as accepting its provisions by President Bharat Jagdeo on 4th May 2004. I cannot think of one of the 10 provisions which the PPP government has not breached and are continuing to breach since then; to be fair I must say that the PNC when in government also infringed a lot of these principles but at that time prior to 2004 there was no signed treaty.

Principle One:

It is an essential value in human life for individuals to be able to express themselves freely, to seek, disseminate and receive information with complete freedom.

Explanation: It is not possible for any society to be democratic and free without having a press that can act with complete freedom. 

Principle Two:

This principle recognizes the right to seek, disseminate and receive information of any kind, air views on any matter and disseminate any and all of them in any medium. The holders of this right are not only those who work as journalists, but everyone, every citizen.

Explanation: There can be no free press or free society if journalists in particular and citizens in general, find themselves restricted in their search for timely and complete information. Nor could there be freedom of the press if those in government or the authorities surround their actions with secrecy, or try to make or uphold old laws which allow secrecy in the business of Government as a means of preventing their actions from being transparent to public scrutiny.   Regulation of the press as here in Guyana with the fair and balanced clauses, appended to all broadcast licenses is a good example of a restriction to free speech. Such restrictive regulations conspire against plurality and sow the seeds of totalitarianism and dictatorship.

Principle Three:

Every person has the right to receive information that will permit him to make judgments about public affairs affecting his welfare or that of his community. This unavoidably forces the authorities to permit free access to information in its possession regarding the public sector. This information must to be provided in a timely and fair manner, containing complete facts, including any necessary supporting documentation, it must be accompanied by accurate data regarding its sources and any necessary explanations in order that the public will understand the information being provided.

    Explanation: It is an indispensable necessity that for journalists to operate properly on behalf of the public in a democracy, that those in government who are in charge of disseminating public information, understand that they do not own the information. The information belongs to citizens who, as are its true owners and have the right to know it.

   It is also necessary to guard against the bureaucracy hiding information by unjustly labelling  the information as being hidden to protect national security, public order, etc., but what in fact they are doing is actively limiting necessary information about public affairs which the public must have to make informed decisions..

This principle, moreover, calls upon authorities not only to adopt the necessary measures, including legislative means such as freedom of information legislation, but to be truly committed to making information available to the public.

Principle Four:

Attacks on the practice of journalism and freedom of expression described in Principle Four restrict the rights of all other citizens since they limit the right to receive information by those citizens. These are thus open violations of human rights that on occasion manifest themselves in a gross and criminal manner but also in subtle and deceitful ways. Explanation: the people who restrict information should be deemed to be in violation of the law which offends press freedom. The authorities cannot avoid their responsibility for this and as a result it is reaffirmed that governments have an obligation to guarantee and respect the practice of journalism and freedom of the press and to ensure that journalists are protected by encouraging the relevant agencies to investigate and punish those who are guilty of restricting public information.

Principle Five:

The actions that make up violations may have either a public or a private origin. Whatever their origin, however, the state has a responsibility for the actions it initiates or carries out, but also for not adopting  the rules and regulations empowering it to prevent and punish violations of freedom of expression and of the press.

Explanation: The United States Supreme Court held that a prior restriction of that nature was "the essence of censorship." According to the court, the true essence of freedom of the press was the protection against prior restrictions or prior censorship, a philosophy that remains in effect today. Prior censorship is the best known of the restrictions of free speech and press freedom. It supposes a control of information before it is disseminated and, consequently, the possibility of total or partial veto on the part of the censor. This has been used, and continues being used, by totalitarian political regimes. As a weapon of restriction of a fundamental right of man, it is essential to remove it anywhere it may appear and whatever the grounds used to justify it.

Principle Six:

On the basis of this principle, the following definitions apply: Discrimination in any manner of making access to information difficult or denying such access, when it is the duty of the state and its agents to provide it, is specifically prohibited by Chapultepec. Explanation: any action which harms freedom of expression i.e. the granting of any privilege to news media or journalists in order to stimulate their praise, or to create bias in their reporting, or to express ideological commitment to the state or other conduct which damages the reliability and credibility of information, is contrary to the principles of Chapeltupec.  If any news agency is enjoying special privileges or treatment which is effectively a bribe from the government which can bias the news agency's reporting in favour of the government, then the government and the relevant media are guilty of offences against freedom of the press and humanity.

Principle Seven:

This principle responds to legal and administrative measures that at times are used by governments to favour or harm media or journalists. This directly or indirectly restricts the right to free speech and press freedom. Explanation: these actions take different forms, such as the application of discriminatory and abusive taxes and duties to media houses not sympathetic to the government, placement of official advertising not based on the criteria of efficiency and fairness but to withdraw this government advertising to punish media houses from being too militant. Discrimination in the granting of licenses broadcasting radio or TV is also not allowed by Chapultepec.

In short, the aim of Principle Seven is to prevent authorities from acting arbitrarily and in a discriminatory manner in their relations with the media.

Principle Eight:

This principle of the Chapultepec Declaration is a result of a struggle begun by the English poet John Milton, in his book "Aero-pag-itica," in which he clamoured for the freedom to write and publish without any official license.

 

 Explanation: the principle is this "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression. This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one's choice."

Principle Nine:

Freedom of expression and of the press is taken to be, in this day and age, the right to express creative freedom which affect the public not only through the media alone but through any technical medium of social communication i.e. the graphics media, radio, cinema, television, telephone call-in shows, communication by satellite transmission, computer networks and all other technical means of communication. But no one is responsible for its performance except the press itself. To impose any kind of official demands for measuring what the press does is incompatible with freedom.

Principle Ten: When Principle Ten specifies that no news medium nor journalist may be punished for publishing the truth, truth should be understood to be an ideal to be achieved, a goal to be pursued. The human condition also allows for a limited truth, which is not necessarily the truth of everyone else and in no way the sole and whole truth.

Explanation: the free dissemination of this and other truths must be preserved, with all their peculiarities and limitations, and fundamentally the imposition of an official truth must never be accepted. In plural countries like Guyana this is especially true we have Christians, Hindus, Muslims, religions we have East Indian, African, mixed, Portuguese Amerindian and Chinese races in such plural or mixed societies it is not possible to have one truth.

    His Excellency Mr. Bharat Jagdeo signed this treaty in 2004, it means that as of the time of his signing it on behalf of Guyana, all our laws even those in the constitution must be changed to ensure that the principles of Chalpultepec were consistent and have effect within our legal jurisdiction in keeping with these declarations, if our constitution says we have freedom of speech [and it does] Mr. Jagdeo and his government are obligated to interpret the provisions of free speech according to the 10 principles of Chapultepec I have outlined here.