Pending full legal advice on the proposed amendments to the Broadcasting Act, the Guyana Press Association (GPA)has said the amendments present severe challenges to freedom of the press in Guyana.
In a statement, the GPA said the amendments to the Broadcasting Act, essentially introduce an unwarranted “programme manager” position by the State in the daily schedules of radio and television stations.
The overall provision for the allocation of 60 minutes for public service programmes will disrupt and violate contractual obligations that stations will have with advertisers and programme sponsors, the GPA stated.
The Association said it was understandable that private broadcasters should play roles during emergencies and disasters including matters of public health, but the GPA is opposed to the actual allocation of times or the need to inform the authority about this or for the authority to dictate time slots if it does not agree with those allocated by the stations.
The GPA strongly objected to the Guyana government seeking to redefine what constitutes “public service programmes” as this is in direct contradiction and a violation of the letter and spirit of the definition of public service broadcasting as laid down by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) of which Guyana is a member.
The GPA said that one would shudder to think that the Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, has ill-advised the President and the rest of the Cabinet of what constitutes “public service programmes.”
The GPA will be seeking legal advice from local and international experts and raising this matter with our affiliates such as the Association of Caribbean Media Workers and the International Press Institute, and other global press freedom bodies.
The Association said it stands in solidarity with local broadcasters on this issue and will be seeking further legal advice to convince the government of the need to halt or reverse this process given the severe consequences these amendments pose to freedom of the press in Guyana and the commercial viability of private radio and television stations.