Chairman of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA), Leslie Sobers has described comments made by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo regarding the reason Freedom Radio was fined as, “wickedly false and maliciously deceptive.”
He said too that Jagdeo’s comment was designed to mislead the nation and tarnish the principled stand of the Broadcasting Authority.
Sobers then categorically refuted the contention.
At his press conference last week, Jagdeo said that Freedom Radio, a radio station controlled by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), was fined $75,000 by GNBA for referring to President David Granger as a ‘charlatan’. Jagdeo told the media that GNBA was policing Freedom Radio.
But at a press conference today, Sobers said that GNBA did not sanction Freedom Radio or MTV for airing any comment against President David Granger that had to do with calling the President a charlatan.
Further, Sobers said, “This contention by the Leader of the Opposition can only be a reaction of his own conscience and knowledge that it is defamatory of one’s reputation to publish disparaging comments that cannot be justified.”
The GNBA Chairman was keen to note that the Authority “is not unmindful of our citizen’s fundamental right to freedom of expression we are fully aware of and understand the meaning; the spirit and intent of Article 146 of the Constitution which guarantees Freedom of Expression…However, that right is not an unfettered right it has limitations.”
“The GNBA is not an enforcer of the Defamation Act our role is to guide our Broadcaster,” the Chairman said
Sober told the media, “The comments made by the Leader of the Opposition at his Press Conference of Oct 10, 2019, are instructive. At this press conference Mr. Jagdeo also General Secretary of the PPP spoke of Freedom Radio in the first person plural suggesting that the two entities are really one.”
He continued, “I would imagine that the Broadcasting Act having been piloted through Parliament by the PPP, Freedom Radio would comply with the said Act. The final test is not how amicable you are to the compulsion of the law but how far you ARE PREPARED TO obey self-imposed law. Seems to me they have failed that test.”
Sobers reiterated that GNBA does not intend to target any Broadcaster who is sympathetic to the cause of the PPP or advocates that party’s political position.
He said that Freedom Radio and MTV were summoned to separate Hearings of the GNBA as allowed by Section 28 of the Broadcasting Act, Not for any reference to the President as being a charlatan but for other breaches of the Broadcasting Act.
Sober revealed that “Between January 2019 and September 2019 Freedom committed a total of 26 infractions. Freedom Radio was called in before and simply encouraged to refrain. Between January 2019 and September 2019, MTV Committed a total of 27 infractions, MTV was called in before and simply encouraged to refrain.
OTHER STATIONS THAT WERE SANCTIONED IN SIMILAR MANNER
1. HBTV was fined
2. NTN was fined
3. NCN was warned
4. Keystone (BENSCHOP RADIO) was warned
Sobers repeated that GNBA has no political agenda and is not being used by the present government as an agent to quell freedom of expression or simply make life difficult for any Broadcaster.