CNS Channel 6 back on air, but vigils to continue

CNS Channel 6 resumed operations just after noon yesterday on receipt of President Bharrat Jagdeo’s formal letter stating that the ban had been temporarily lifted until December 1, but the candlelight vigils in protest will continue.

However, while some might see this as a small victory, broadcaster and leader of the Justice For All Party, CN Sharma, said it would take about “a month to get everything back in place” adding that he is facing a staff crisis. But he sought to assure viewers that he is working around the clock to ensure that his programming, especially as it relates to opposition political parties, is up and running in the shortest possible time.

Speaking to Stabroek News, Sharma said he received a letter bearing the Office of the President letterhead and signed by the president around 12:10 pm. He said the brief letter stated that the station can resume operations but has to be off air as at December 1 when the suspension will continue.

A sombre Sharma said he did not believe “we should have been closed in the first place,” adding that it must be noted that PNCR leader Robert Corbin has said that the Advisory Committee for Broadcasting (ACB) is not properly in place and as such the body should not have handed down the recommendation which Jagdeo later acted upon.

He told Stabroek News that the court case still continues and he is awaiting the outcome. Jagdeo handed Sharma a four-month suspension two Fridays ago following the May 4, 2011 Anthony Vieira commentary which was aired on the television station.

Bishop Juan Edghill, who was the subject of the broadcast, had lodged a complaint with the ACB and has since sued Sharma for $25 million in damages. Jagdeo last week said it was Programme Director Savitree Sharma who asked for four months but she subsequently denied this saying that the president was giving the public a false impression of her.

According to Jagdeo he was prepared to hand down an eight-month suspension but took a number of things into consideration including the Sharmas financial situation.

Sharma stated yesterday too that the candlelight vigil which started last Monday when the suspension took effect will continue since “there should have been no closure. This station should not be closed”.

He said that although the ban has been temporarily lifted, he is still upset. “I am still not feeling good [about this]. I am still upset,” he said when asked how he felt about this latest development.

Sharma said the station has been closed for only a week but a lot has to be done to get it up and running again. He said he is finding it difficult to get back the 30-odd workers he had sent home, since some of them have already found other employment.

“You see we had been catering for four months. They don’t understand what they did to us,” he said, adding, “it will take a month to get our self in place. This is not going to be an easy task.”

He stressed that the office is in disarray; equipment have been dismantled and furniture removed. But he said his programming will resume shortly.

Up to 4 pm yesterday, foreign programmes were being broadcasted. Last night, political and other groups held a vigil outside the National Communications Network (NCN) studios on Homestretch Avenue.

Jagdeo, while addressing a crowd at the PPP/C rally on Sunday, announced the temporary lifting of the ban until December 1 saying that he did not want the opposition parties to have any excuse for the “resounding defeat” that awaits them at the November 28 polls.

The President said he made the decision because some parties were talking about boycotting the elections and he did not want to provide an opportunity for these parties to divide the people of Guyana.

After the announcement Corbin had told Stabroek News that Jagdeo’s decision was appropriate and insisted that the entities who are protesting Sharma’s ban will continue to do so because they felt the ban was unjust in the first place.

Jagdeo’s decision to suspend Channel 6’s broadcast had met severe criticism from local and international bodies.

Sharma had been awaiting a ruling from Jagdeo on whether the station’s licence would be suspended or revoked after he was cited by the ACB for breaches of the conditions of his licence, following the controversial commentary.

CNS Channel 6 offered an “unequivocal apology” to Edghill for the “embarrassment and damage to character” caused by the airing of the commentary.

Savitree had accepted responsibility for the broadcast, explaining that her staff made a mistake and aired the wrong commentary.

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