Dec 17, 2008 News
Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang has ruled that the constitutional right of the applicants as residents of Region Ten to freedom of expression under Article 146 of the Constitution was infringed or violated in so far as their freedom to receive ideas and information as residents of Region Ten was restricted or hindered by the delay of the government in considering the applications for a licence to operate a radio and a television broadcasting network in the region.
“It is further ordered that, upon the second named applicant and/or Chandra Narine Sharma furnishing all information necessary for a proper consideration of their applications, the government forthwith consider his/their applications in accordance with existing law relating to the processing of application for licences to broadcast.”
The application of Chandra Narine Sharma to extend the signals of his television network to Region 10 should be allowed.
He however dismissed the motion against the Guyana Elections Commission and refused several other orders sought by Norman Chapman and Mortimer Yearwood in the court action brought against the Attorney General and the Elections Commission.
All other orders sought were refused.
According to Justice Chang’s ruling, the court understands the applicants to be saying that they were being discriminated against by the government on the basis of their place of origin in that the government licensed or permitted only the government controlled National Communications Network (NCN) to operate a television broadcasting network in Region Ten while other regions of the country were benefiting from the operations of other broadcasting networks which were not under government control.
“Not only was there no constitutional duty on the government to enable anyone, or more particularly the residents of Region Ten, to access ideas and information from any television network (in contradistinction to not hindering anyone from so doing), but, more significantly, there is no evidence that Region Ten was similarly circumstanced as other Regions where there were television networks other than the National Communications Network (NCN) operating,” Justice Change contended.
The judgment also stated that there is no evidence that the government had licensed or permitted any television network to operate in any other region after refusing the very same television network or any other network licence or permission to operate in Region Ten.
According to Justice Chang’s judgment, there is no true comparator to enable the court to find discrimination by the government against the residents of Region Ten on the basis of place of origin.
“Indeed, according to the evidence, some regions, such as Region Four, had more than one broadcasting network operating therein while other have absolutely none…The claim for declaration by the applicants (Norman Chapman and Mortimer Yearwood) as residents of Region Ten that they were being discriminated against by the government on the basis of place of origin is unsupported by the evidence and must be refused.”
It also stated that there is no evidential basis for any finding that the Elections Commission violated or infringed the applicants’ right to freedom of expression.
Nor was there any evidential basis that the Elections Commission discriminated against the applicants as residents of Region Ten on the basis of place of origin in respect of the dissemination of information for the purpose of the 2006 general and regional elections.
“Accordingly, the motion against the second-named respondent (Elections Commission) is wholly dismissed.” The action, which was filed in November 2005, sought a declaration that the failure and or omission of the Attorney General to have radio broadcasts aired from radio stations other than the Government-controlled radio stations operated by the National Communication Network (NCN) is a negation of free and fair elections, especially for the last General and Regional Elections in 2006.
Also, a declaration that the failure of the AG to allow television channels, other than the Government-controlled channel NCN, to broadcast in Region Ten is a hindrance in the enjoyment of the applicants’ freedom of expression and also the applicants’ freedom to receive ideas and information without interference especially for the General and Regional Elections in 2006 and is a contravention of the applicants’ fundamental rights guaranteed by Article 146 of the Constitution.
Thirdly, the motion also sought, a declaration that the failure by the AG and the Elections Commission, to enable the Chapman and Yearwood to access information and ideas in Region Ten by television broadcasts other than from the Government-controlled station NCN, is discriminatory and contravenes the applicants fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 149 of the Constitution.
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