Following a lengthy and bitter debate in Parliament, the Broadcast Amendment Bill 2017 which was introduced by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo was finally passed. However, the political subterfuge displayed by the opposition in and out of Parliament, clearly justifies why the amendments are needed in the Bill.
Claims by the opposition leader that the Bill would infringe on both the freedom of the press and the private enterprise are dishonest to say the least.
The Prime Minister has made it very clear – and there is a detailed statement in today’s edition – that the Broadcast Amendment Bill would repeal the misdeeds of the Broadcasting Act of 2011 which he termed the ‘Jagdeo Act”, signed into law by Bharrat Jagdeo during his last days in office.
In praising the Bill, many notable media operatives have recognized the need to bring control to the airwaves which they described as the Wild-West.
The new Broadcasting Bill is a breath of fresh air to many, including this media houses and several others, in that it underscores the narrow prism under which the former president acted when he indiscriminately gave away the airwaves to his friends, relatives, and to his party in 2011.
It was a desperate move by a president to make sure that those entities would control the airwaves. His callous distribution of broadcast licences to his cronies had resulted in widespread criticism from several groups, organizations and individuals, including veteran broadcaster and journalist Enrico Woolford, who had moved to the court to have the distributed licences revoked.
That said, the former president, by giving away the airwaves to close associates, acted like an unruly horse that has bolted from the stable of reason. He should be the last person in Guyana to criticize the Bill or the government.
For him not to grant broadcast licences to Kaieteur News and Stabroek News, exposed his insularity and prejudice against the two most prominent media houses in the country. Not only did he hijack the licensing process, but his premise that the Broadcasting Amendment Bill has violated the law is absurd, unmeritorious and outright preposterous and should rightly be rejected by all in Guyana, including the press and private organizations.
As president, most of his policies were egregious and several others were discriminatory. They were deemed to be harmful to our fragile democracy.
Many believe that he should be rebuked, if not ostracized for them; for his abuse of power; for being vindictive to those who opposed his views; for contempt of the people and the Constitution and for pauperizing the nation.
If there is one lesson to be learned from his actions while in office, it is that the people must not allow someone of that nature, the opportunity to have any say in the governance of the country.
The opposition leader’s absence from Parliament during the debate of the Broadcasting Bill has brought forth a new and different kind of thinking, especially among some members of the opposition. While many of the hardliners in the opposition echoed Jagdeo’s sentiments and deemed the Bill as reckless and an infringement on freedom of speech and a violation of the law, yet they have pledged to work together for the good of all in society.
The opposition MPs believe that it is important for Parliament not be the political theatre for warriors only, but also for builders, in order to help construct a strong and prosperous society and thus improve the well-being of the masses.
Although the Bill is not perfect, it will curb the excesses outlined in the previous Bill. It will create a level playing field and put an end to the discrimination in the sector.
The passage of the Bill ushered in an era of fairness; it corrected the wrongs which were normal under the last government. It should be supported by all.
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