PNC/R vows to be more vigilant on state media use
Stabroek News
January 11, 2002

The PNC REFORM (PNC/R) will heighten its scrutiny of how the ruling PPP/Civic uses the state-owned media and says that it expects equal access to present its views.

This position was enunciated at a press conference yesterday by PNC/R central committee member, Raphael Trotman.

He recalled that the state-owned television station GTV 11 made time available to Dr Prem Misir, who is the director of the Government Information Agency, to attack the position of the PNC/R and other opposition parties on the issue of the parliamentary committees mandated under recent constitutional amendments.

PNC/R General Secretary, Oscar Clarke, subsequently wrote to the general manager of the television station, Martin Goolsarran, requesting equal time to express the opinion of the PNC/R. "We are happy to report that the GTV board accepted the validity of the PNC/R's position and agreed to accord it equal time to present its views to the public. This is as it should be," he stated.

Trotman said it was expected that in future the party would not have to take this course of action but would be invited to present its views when the PPP/C used broadcast time to present its own position.

"State-owned media, contrary to what the regime might think, are not mouthpieces of the government or the ruling political party; they have a duty to present news and information in a fair, balanced and unbiased way. Access to them are not a matter of PPP/C's grace and favour, but a right of citizens and their organisations," he declared.

He urged the members of the public to insist on the right of access and to raise their collective voices to insist on proper behaviour by those who manage the state-owned media.

Trotman noted that the joint committee on radio monopoly and non-partisan boards established under the dialogue process between President Bharrat Jagdeo and PNC/R Leader Desmond Hoyte had submitted its report.

The PNC/R is insisting on the enacting of the necessary legislation to abolish government's monopoly of radio and establish a regulatory framework for radio and television broadcasting. "Such legislation must protect the interests of the public and the media houses, while preserving the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech," he stated.

He said that until the comprehensive regulatory framework recommended by the joint committee became law, the advisory committee would be involved in the issuance of broadcast licences and be responsible for monitoring the content of broadcasts. It would also advise the minister on the due compliance with the law.

This arrangement sought to remove arbitrariness, unfairness and political bias from the administration of the regulations and should give much needed confidence to the owners of broadcast facilities until the legislation was enacted, Trotman said.

The PNC/R central executive committee member said that in the meantime the party would exercise increased vigilance and take appropriate action when the government "misuses state media." (Andrew Richards)