The four-month ban on Channel Six

What the people say about…

Interviews and photos
by Shabna Ullah

This week we asked persons in the street their views on the four-month suspension of C N Sharma’s TV station, Channel Six

Narine Giri – pensioner
‘Sharma’s channel is very helpful. In fact, I went on it at one time and it helped me to get connection back with my water. He tries to
highlight the plight of people but sometimes his English is so bad, he makes people laugh at him. I feel though, that if that is the law then
they have a right to close him down because he is not using the station how it should be used. Lots of people go to his station to publicize their stories, whether they are wrong or right. And the stories are always one-sided, not balanced. If he dictates his own story it would be alright, but he is hearing with other people’s ears.
If he decides to change that way and do the news as public news and not politically he can continue nicely.’

Alfred Carmichael – Supervisor
‘To me it all comes down to freedom of expression. If you say something that they [government] don’t like they become annoyed.
They are not accepting readily when they are wrong. And the minute you talk something against them they try to get ways and means where they would penalize you. If the Sharmas claimed that they aired an offensive programme by mistake and they apologized, then they should have been given a warning and allowed to continue to be on air.’

Vishnu Bishram – minibus driver
‘I respect the President’s decision to ban Sharma’s channel from being on air for four months. If you play a game of cricket the umpire’s decision is final. So I feel what the President has done to Mr Sharma is justified because at the end of the day he is the president. Mr Sharma needs to be more responsible about the contents of the programmes that he is airing so that he would not get into trouble again.’

Gerhard Ramsaroop – Executive member of the Alliance for Change (AFC)
‘We believe that it [the ban] is an attack on the freedom of expression in this country because CN Sharma’s station is one of the few stations that is airing the views of the opposition. The AFC had two programmes running on that station and we are getting our message out. We had live programmes and persons were calling in. We are a new party and we don’t have a set of people that would always vote for us because their parents or grandparents voted for them [other parties].

So the only way we can reach out is through a message. So we see it not just as an attack on freedom of expression generally, but an attack
on the AFC specifically because of the gains we are making all around the country.’

Balkarran Ramroop – cane harvester
‘I don’t think the government did the right thing to close the channel down. If Sharma did or said something wrong, they should have just
warned him and let him continue to show. Look how many people benefit from that station; to show their death announcements, greetings and so, and look how many people would be out of jobs now. They have their families to take care of. Sharma was doing a good for the people by highlighting certain issues.’

Shondell Haynes – vendor

‘My views are that if they [have to] ban Sharma off the air, just ban him some other time. I think it is grossly unfair to do that at this point in time. Let us be free and fair about the elections and whatever has to come out, let it come out. If there was nothing to hide why take him off the air now? What does he have to say so much that would hinder the government or people on the air during the election time? You cannot go on no other channel right now and know certain things, other than on CN Sharma’s channel. If the problem came about because of [Anthony] Vieira then they should penalize him too because he should know that he can’t make certain comments on the air.
Vieira had his television station and he knows what is right from what is wrong. To me they just got Sharma in a pepperpot…’

Gregory Nicholson – handyman
‘To me I think the ACB [Advisory Com-mittee on Broadcasting] should have been a bit more lenient with whatever is taking place at this point in time. They should have waited until after the elections. A lot of people depend on the station, including the political parties,
local advertisers and persons for death  announcements. I feel that the system should have played a part in whatever decisions had to be made and the matter should have been taken to the court.’

Phillip McRae – self-employed
‘I don’t think they should have cut off the station because that is where the voices of political parties and the people in the street are
being heard. They shut off the voices of the  people and somehow that is trampling on what we term as democracy… in terms of freedom of speech. It seems as though it is intentionally done at a peak time in the country when it is highly likely that people’s voices would be
heard more during this elections period. The smallest and the poorest voice can be heard on Sharma’s station.’

Rajpaul Singh – farmer
‘Sharma is doing a good to air people’s issues on his programme but he has to be careful about the comments that some of them make. For instance, when Anthony Vieira had  his television station why didn’t he make such comments there? I believe Sharma is also talking too much and this is a lesson for him. He needs to pull himself up and if he can’t d that then the channel should be closed down.’

Bertie Peters – photographer
‘To me this ban cannot be viewed as being fair because if you listen to the national radio station, they campaign non-stop. A news item is a political campaign rather than a news report. Not only that, each magazine programme that they air is geared towards promoting the government. This is disrespect to the populace. You [government] want to claim that you have an outstanding track record, but still you want to silence the opposition. It means that there is an element of fear and that does not go along with a democratic government. In any case that is one of the hallmarks of communism and it is evident that communism still exists within the PPP.’

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