Regulations are important To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
January 26, 2002

In an effort to solicit responsible attitudes from journalists, broadcasters and citizens in general, it is important that the people of Guyana be made to remember their role in being responsible in their public attitude.

Representation of the People's (Amendment) Act 1:2001 prohibits any person or political party from causing racial or ethnic violence or hatred. This amendment to the People's Act specifically states that any person who makes or publishes or causes to be made or published any statement or takes any action which results or can result in racial ethnic violence or hatred among the people shall be liable on conviction on indictment to a fine of One Hundred Thousand

Dollars, together with imprisonment for two years. This amendment was passed by the National Assembly on January 4, 2001 and is an amendment to Bill No. 17/2000.

The passing of this bill is not hinged on control of the media, but on promoting civility and responsibility by media practitioners and political parties. The penalties are implemented to help ensure adherence to the law and to prohibit breaching of these very laws.

Charges must be instituted against offenders, and careful scrutiny of the major players in the media scenario must be encouraged to be able to identify possible offenders. This Bill was not passed only to
facilitate the Elections process, but to provide a peaceful and safe environment for all, ultimately promoting equity.

Most of the televised local programmes are not monitored and as such, a number of careless remarks are casually made on the airwaves, especially the televised media. The hosts should be more responsible in the dissemination of information to the public.

Even television station owners will be made to be responsible for the material published on their stations. Regulations made under the POST AND TELEGRAPH ACT (Chap. 47:01) clearly stipulates that,
the licensee must 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.

It will also be a requirement that news is presented with accuracy and impartiality, and programmes are of the highest possible standard. Without regulation, there has been wanton disrespect for every code and practice in the presentation of news and the general ethical framework of the profession.

It is very critical at this stage that there be a 'watchdog' for the media. Emphasis needs to be placed on defining all the terms laid out in the regulations. If these are not specified, the implementation of such laws automatically become null and void. These regulations also necessitate that everyone be made aware of the specifics of the regulation.

These regulations will become more specific to the televised medium, where so- called "opposers of Government" can be found peddling information. We have to be watchful and careful of what broadcasters say and what political parties encourage.

Since the 1992 General Elections when televised Talk Shows began to see their genesis, we have had our share of anti government statements and anti developmental remarks, which are inciting. This has become something of an acceptable behavioural pattern for our Talk Show Hosts. But they are altogether, too selfish.

Although we have to encourage freedom of expression, we cannot encourage this to the detriment of our society; we are not to be carried away by the behaviour of the media in the more developed parts of
the world.

We cannot divide a people when we have not yet gotten on a steady firm foundation; we are not to exploit our freedom, neither are we to exploit our people. We

have to come up with workable terms, which would come to a desired end for all involved.

Having the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Desmond Hoyte, and the President Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, agreeing on the need for broadcast regulation is a good sign of the willingness of two of the most important groups in our society to agree to patterns of responsible
behaviour by media practitioners.

Michelle Johnson