Jagdeo interview was statesponsored propaganda
March 27, 2004
The PNCR says the government refuses to implement the agreement on access to the state media by parliamentary parties even as the president abuses it for his own propaganda.
Speaking at the party's weekly press conference on Thursday, Lance Carberry said that the use of National Communications Network (NCN) Channel 11 under the guise of a 'special interview with the President' for a political attack on the PNCR and its leader was a good illustration of the abuse.
Carberry added that private television stations "were directed, under threat of cancellation of their licence, to play this political diatribe by the president..."
In response to Carberry's statements, Information Liaison to the President, Robert Persaud said Carberry is "either woefully misinformed or out to create mischief. Once again, his party makes the false claim that the PNCR does not have access to the state media." He added that there is no policy of not airing or publishing the views of the opposition especially when the state dominates the media sector.
Persaud said in relation to the special interview of March 13, the covering letter sent to the various television stations from the Government Infor-mation Agency (GINA) made a request and no directive or threat was issued. The letter stated: "The Government Information Agency (GINA) is pleased to provide the enclosed video tape containing a Special Interview with His Excellency President Bharrat Jagdeo on current national issues. The interview was conducted by Editor-in-Chief of NCN Channel 11 News Wilfred Cameron.
We seek your cooperation in having this interview broadcast."
Persaud said that all of the stations cooperated, including Hoyte/Blackman Television (HBTV) Channel 9.
But Carberry said the use of the state media to discredit the recent Rule of Law march and rally and to sow the seeds of ethnic conflict in the society was a disturbing development.
And in a subplot, HBTV Channel 9 says it is unhappy with the way requests are being made to air broadcasts about matters which the government considers to be of urgent national importance. It claims that a number of persons have been making these requests purporting to be representatives of the government and making veiled threats.
In a letter to Prime Minister Sam Hinds, HBTV director James Blackman said the station has been receiving "several crank calls including calls from individuals with superinflated egos, opportunists and like, purporting to be socalled officials of various organisations including the Office of the President."
He told Hinds that the station has "had to ignore such calls, particularly when punctuated with veiled threats, or if we have not been advised by those in authority that the individuals are the official representatives of the specific organisation or government entity they claim to represent."
He said HBTV "operates like private, nonnetwork television stations in the United States of America and we also reserve compliance for Presidential speeches if/or when Guyana is at war; or when some major catastrophic event attends the nation." He observed too that his station takes "pride in observing due respect for the rule of the law" fulfilling its contractual obligations and other local commitments.
Blackman's letter, dated March 10, was in response to a March 4 letter from the Prime Minister in which he chided HBTV Channel 9 for refusing to comply with a request that it should air a presidential address to the nation on February 25 at 6 pm.
As the Minister with responsibility for the issuing of television broadcast licences, Hinds informed the operators of HBTV that though it is not presently a condition for the issue of a broadcast licence, they "would, nevertheless, be expected to voluntarily comply."
He said that he noted that the station had informed the official who made the request that for it to air the broadcast on the day and time requested the station would have to obtain the agreement of the person to whom the slot had been sold,
However, Hinds reminded them that "It should be understood by all broadcast licensees that the licensee and the licensee alone is responsible for all programmes broadcast by the licensee and that this responsibility cannot be sold or ceded to anyone."
Blackman in his letter said that the decision to air the broadcast at 7 pm instead of at 6pm as requested was made "in full agreement with Mr Neaz Subhan, the person who on occasions requests the airing of tapes on Hoyte Blackman TV Channel 9, on behalf of the Office of the President."
Hinds added that he would very much "hope that in the future HBTV Channel 9 will reconsider its position on this matter and respect the universal practice of complying with a request from the Government to broadcast any matter considered to be of urgent national public importance."