Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Freedom of Speech
(Aired 4 July 2011)

    I take my right to freedom of speech very seriously. I will not allow anyone to take it away from me; we have the Caribbean Court of Justice [the CCJ] now, so whenever anyone in this country seeks to remove my right to free speech I will take them to the CCJ. On that you have my word and I will not be taking them alone I have the assurances of the other broadcasters including channels 6, 7, 9, 13 etc that they are behind me on this issue, so the PPP may as well take heed.

   We will not countenance any Broadcast Legislation which seeks to restrict our freedom of speech and which seeks to enshrine special treatment in the regulations for the government owned media as compared to the private owned media, on this there will be no compromise.

   So anyone who became a public figure in this country for the sole purpose of filling their pockets must allow themselves to be scrutinised closely by the media.

   No more of this nonsense of fair and balanced reporting being enshrined in our broadcast licenses, since I believe that it is unconstitutional. I don't have to be fair and balanced in anything I say for the simple reason that it is not my function to do so, I must give the public the facts and my interpretation of them and if the government does not like it, then they can use their newspaper, their TV station and their monopoly in radio to give their side of the story, and the public will decide who is lying and who is telling the truth.

   I have told you before that in 1982 the opposition in Trinidad the UNC, Mr. Panday's Party, took the government to court since the government at that time was operating Trinidad and Tobago Television [TTT] as a monopoly and in addition they were operating it as if it were the property of the party in power and not a state owned media entity owned by all the people, so the Indo Trinidadians, Mr. Panday's supporters, were not getting time to address their constituents, very much the same thing that is happening in Guyana today with the PNC and the AFC being denied access to the state owned media, so the opposition in this country even though they hold 29 seats in the parliament since you can't call Nadir opposition, versus the PPP's 35 seats get no time on the state owned media notwithstanding that there is ample evidence that their supporters are paying a major portion of the taxes that is used to run these state owned media houses. At the end of the trial in Trinidad it was decided that no one not even a minister, a Permanent Secretary, a political activist of the government's party could use the state owned media to put the government's or its party's position to the public unless the opposition was given equal time, in keeping with their seats in the Parliament, to respond.

 

     This ruling meant that Ministers, including the Prime Minister, every government functionary or party official were all considered as giving government propaganda, there were no exceptions; the opposition in this country should not be operating as if they have no constituents, they have over 45% of the voter's support so why do they have to be begging the government for time on a media where their supporters are making significant contributions to operate it with their taxes. Actually in the TTT matter the government did show that the government was not giving the TTT station any subventions, it was, they alleged, operating like an independent state corporation, so the Guyana situation is much, much worse since every year at budget time 80 plus million dollars is allocated to run NCN from the consolidated fund.

   Mr. Hoyte and now Mr. Corbin and the AFC's call for equal time on the state owned media became the law in Trinidad 29 years ago, and there is no question that if we had a functioning judicial system in this country that they would be entitled to the same treatment based on this Trinidad precedent case but rest assured were we to get this matter out of the Guyana legal jurisdiction to the CCJ in Trinidad there would only be one decision. Why the opposition have not mounted this case in Guyana is beyond me and they knew about it for over 11 years since I personally gave Mr. Hoyte the judge's decision in the matter since around 1999. The PNC government when in power did not spend so much time and money making the huge propaganda machine which this PPP communist government is spending to exclude the opposition from having the opportunity of communicating their thoughts and ideas to the public, when put this way the opposition are being denied their fundamental right to free speech in this country which is unconstitutional.

  Now let me tell you in more detail about the matter that went to the Trinidad court over 29 years ago between Mr. Surujrattan Rambachand v Trinidad and Tobago Television Company and the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago.

   Rambachand one of Mr. Panday's Members of Parliament claimed that the provisions of section 4 of the T&T constitution has been, is being or is likely to be contravened in relation to him for redress in accordance of section 14 of the same constitution.

   The Judge in this matter [notwithstanding that the government in power derived most of its support from the Afro Trinidadians] was an Indo Trinidadian named Lennox Deyalsingh and his ultimate judgement tells us that notwithstanding T&T's similarities to us racially, they still have a functioning judicial system, it is probably why they still function as a viable nation compared to us.  

    During this trial the question of freedom of speech came up with particular reference to public functionaries in Government.

    In the judge's summation which is recorded under case number 4789 of 1982 he said on page 54 of his summation and I quote him "dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public. For it is only through free debate and free exchange of ideas that government remains responsible to the will of the people and peaceful change is affected" end quote we have a racial problem in this country and it is being fed by forces up to today especially at elections time, to deny that this is so is dangerous and can blow up into an uncontrollable violent process, but to fuel the dissatisfaction even further by silencing anyone who speaks about it, is foolhardy and ultimately can lead to even greater civil strife.

      Judge  Deyalsingh in summing up this case tells us that "The government in a free society, must have no control over the press and especially in the modern world over the electronic press. Any control leads to censorship in one form or the other, openly or subtly... but in whatever form or in whatever way, it remains censorship nevertheless. As Douglas J. in Columbia Broadcasting [supra] said ‘the government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in Government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the Government from deceiving the public...' 

    "The government must not, no matter how much and no matter in what manner it is criticized, succumb to the temptation to criticize the press" end quote our President should be informed about this, he is obviously not on the same page with main stream democratic principles, but it is that same blind racial voting rather than voting on the issues and lack of performance which elects the PPP in this country again and again, which makes him uncaring in his excesses and which keeps the country divided and poor.

 

    The press, the Trinidadian judge continues in his summation, has a fundamental right to criticize the government; the government has no corresponding right to criticize the press. It can only defend its policies and its performance and depend on the good sense of the people to discern the true from the scurrilous. People in public life must be prepared to leave to public opinion attacks or comments which are derogatory or scandalous to them; even the courts do. Justice is not a cloistered virtue said lord Atkin in Ambard V A. G. of Trinidad and Tobago so too public life is not a cloistered virtue and she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and even the scandalous comments of the press"

    There you have it ladies and gentlemen over and over again we see it, that in a free and democratic society the press must be free to criticise any public functionary or situation as distinct from private individuals where the laws of libel and defamation are far stricter.

    This is real democracy and rule of law at work; Ladies and gentlemen I wonder how you will react now that I have made it known that what this government is doing is against right thinking democratic governments almost everywhere and that since most of them are trained in the former USSR they actually don't understand it themselves which makes the situation all the more frightening.

 

    I will say it again "evil triumphs when good men do nothing"