In keeping with its constitutional mandate, the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) has been monitoring the outputs of the Guyanese media (television, radio, newspaper, and online news entities) and comments posted by those accessing social media outlets.
This role of the ERC is enshrined in Article 212(D) of the constitution.
Moves by the body to put the nation on alert come as part of its deliberate tactic to discourage persons and institutions from heightening tensions through incitement and from indulging in, advocating, or promoting discrimination or discriminatory practices on the ground of ethnicity.
Monitoring mechanisms, which have been intensified over the past few months in keeping with demands resulting from the ongoing political developments, have captured various media-generated instances that are deemed counterproductive to the process of promoting harmony and good relations across Guyana.
Moreover, the ERC said that it is in the process of engaging those responsible as it works assiduously to educate and discourage such practices. At the same time, it commended those entities that demonstrate a profound sense of responsibility in its reporting and the many Guyanese who, through social media outlets, bring attention and call upon their fellow countrymen and women to desist from posting inciting and disparaging comments.
To this end, the Commission reminded the public that under “139 D (1) of the Representation of the People’s Act…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 or 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.”
It also sought to remind that in, “139 D (2) Every person convicted of an offence under subsection (1) shall, in addition to any punishment under the said subsection, be incapable, during the period of five years from the date of the conviction, of being a member of the National Assembly or being a member of any local democratic organ or the holder of any constitutional or statutory office.”
The Commission, moreover, urges familiarity which it believes would lead to restraint within the context and noted that shortly related public service announcements will be placed in the media as pertinent reminders.
Currently, the ERC said that it is in the process of engaging the media and political parties, both Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary, with the intention of working for national consensus to educate and discourage acts that are not in keeping with the fostering of national harmony.