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Nandlall files legal action against changes in Broadcasting Bill

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A private broadcaster has moved to the High Court to legally challenge the changes made to the legislation governing the local broadcasting sector.

In court documents seen by News Room, Freedom Radio Incorporated, represented by Attorney Anil Nandlall, filed legal proceedings against the State and the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA).

The matter will be heard before the Chief Justice at the High Court on November 6, 2017.

According to the court documents, the broadcaster is asking the court for a declaration that a section of the Broadcasting Amendment Act violates and is in contravention of its fundamental rights and freedoms as guaranteed by Articles 142 and 146 of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.

The broadcaster is also requesting an order striking down several contentious sections including the requirement for private broadcasters to air one hour of public service programme for free daily.

Attorney-at-law, Anil Nandlall

Nandlall, the former Attorney General, had argued that the requirement for all private broadcasters is an infringement on press freedom and has major financial consequences.

Nandlall explained that assuming that broadcasters charge $30,000 per hour during peak time for a programme on television or radio, they will now be losing $850,000 per month as a result of the requirement to broadcast government programmes for free.

“They are picking your pocket! That again is compulsorily acquiring your property without compensation,” Nandlall decried.

The Broadcasting Amendment Bill 2017 was passed by a government majority in the National Assembly on August 4 despite criticisms from the parliamentary opposition and concerns raised by local broadcasters.

International and local organizations including the Guyana Press Association (GPA) have condemned the amendments to the broadcasting laws, expressing similar concerns about financial implications and infringement on press freedom.

Notwithstanding, President David Granger assented to the Bill, making it law, prompting broadcasters to reapply for licences to operate.

According to the Bill, broadcasters are not guaranteed to get back their licences and even if they do, their original spectrum can be subject to change.

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