Reporters Without Borders yesterday condemned President Bharrat Jagdeo’s order suspending broadcasting by CNS Channel Six for four months from 30 September.
A statement from the press freedom body on its website said that the presidential order is all the more repugnant as it was forcing the station off the air during the run-up to regional and general elections.
“Firstly, this suspension is both discriminatory and absurd,” Reporters Without Borders said. “How can the president’s personal view of a comment made on the air be grounds for reducing CNS Channel Six to silence? But this appalling measure is all the more inopportune for coming during an election period. The fact that the station is owned by Chandra Narine Sharma, the leader of the opposition Justice for All Party, is a further reason for seeing it as an attack on pluralism and democratic debate.”
The group said “There is nothing to stop Bishop Edghill filing a lawsuit over the comments that were made about him but, on the other hand, nothing permits President Jagdeo to use these comments as grounds for imposing censorship”.
The group added that the president is known for his fraught relations with the media. It noted that the storm over this latest suspension of CNS Channel Six comes on the heels of a controversy about a new broadcasting law that the National Assembly adopted in July. It provides for a National Broadcasting Authority with a board of seven persons all named by the president. Also clause 32 of the new law says that all programmes must be “fair and balanced.”
“Trying to use legislation to impose criteria about ‘good’ programme content and news coverage is unfortunately the surest way to obstruct the work of the media,” the group added.