Managing Director of Channel 6 CN Sharma has said he is being “harassed” about his programming, explaining that the “authorities” want to dictate who can appear on the airwaves.
His statement came following the decision to discontinue broadcast of the ‘Keeping Them Honest’ talk show, hosted by Christopher Ram and Ramon Gaskin, who yesterday said they were considering appealing to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on the situation.
Contacted yesterday, Sharma told Stabroek News: “I am being harassed and I know what I am talking about.” He did not want to go into details about what would have prompted the decision to suspend ‘Keeping Them Honest,’ saying that the “authorities” wanted to dictate who could be on the air. He also advised this newspaper to look at the recordings of the show.
Questioned about whether any other programmes on his station would be suspended, especially the ones aired by political parties, Sharma answered in the negative. However, he said that “the authorities” were inching slowly in this regard.
Sharma’s decision comes as he awaits a ruling by President Bharrat Jagdeo, who holds the information ministry portfolio, on whether the station’s licence would be suspended or revoked, following a controversial commentary by Anthony Vieira against Juan Edghill.
Sharma, in correspondence to Ram on Saturday, indicated that the show was being discontinued, following a conversation with “the relevant authorities.”
Gaskin, reading from a prepared statement at a press conference at the Pegasus Hotel yesterday, described the removal of ‘Keeping Them Honest’ as “utterly disgraceful and obscene,” saying that it constituted a grave violation by the regime of the fundamental right of Guyanese to free expression guaranteed in Article 146 of the Constitution and the several conventions and treaties to which Guyana is a party. These, he noted, included the United Nations Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Chapultepec Declaration.
Gaskin said he had information to suggest that President Jagdeo had direct influence in the move to terminate the airing of their programme. Ram expressed his sympathy for Sharma and said his action was not premature. The threats, Ram said, were very real and imminent and had he not done this, the consequences would have been closing down of his station.
“We are considering whether in the context of the various treaties, to which Guyana is a party, there might be some options of taking this matter for litigation. We believe that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights might find this an interesting case to look at,” Ram said yesterday, while responding to a question. “We will certainly explore the options. One of the hurdles we would have to overcome is whether Mr Sharma himself would wish to be a party to such action. And even if we bring such action, would he be willing other than this [the letter] be prepared to say anything more,” Ram added.
He said too that the station had approached the management of Channel 9 abut possibly airing the programme and this is being considered. He said that in the meantime, he will see how he will use his current talk show “Plain Talk,” which is aired on Channel 7, to incorporate aspects of the now discontinued programme.
Also at the press conference were President of the Guyana Bar Association Timothy Jonas and co-President of the Guyana Human Rights Authority, Mike Mc Cormack, and the AFC prime ministerial candidate Sheila Holder. Ambassador Geert Heikens, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Guyana; British High Commissioner Simon Bond and Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Francis Montour also attended.
Gaskin yesterday said that he had contacted the ACB and representatives there had told him that since the programme had started no complaint had been lodged with that body. The programme has been on air since April.
Meanwhile, the AFC, in a press release issued yesterday, criticised the government for its suspected involvement in the matter saying that the “PPP seems to be devoid of any inkling of appreciation for democratic traditions and norms” in tolerating dissenting voices.
The party said that the programme by Ram and Gaskin served “as a responsible discussion forum where a host of important political issues were critiqued and discussed.” On such programmes, the Guyanese people got knowledge of the widespread corruption and ineptitude that is characteristic of the PPP,” the party said, adding that this is in stark contrast “to the intellectually comatose content of the Guyana Chronicle and the Government Information Agency (GINA).”