This report in Stabroek News may not be news to Guyanese at home, but for me it demands comment: “The station’s managing director CN Sharma, in correspondence to Ram yesterday, indicated that the programme will be discontinued with immediate effect. ‘I regret to advise you that I can no longer offer you air time for your broadcast of the subject-mentioned programme. This decision, which takes effect immediately, has been taken for regulatory reasons following a conversation I have had with the relevant authorities concerning the content of the programme,’ Sharma said in his letter, a copy of which this newspaper was able to obtain” (‘Sharma pulls rug from Ram, Gaskin show… July 24).
I have seen in the record that the President had once called in Mr Sharma and his wife to discuss broadcasting issues. Dr Luncheon, the PPP’s ‘man’ Sunday to Sunday, including Friday, had then said that the President’s action was within the law. I wonder whether the President really has to bother. After all, he is the law.
Now we have an incident that seems not to involve the President. Who is involved? Who had “a conversation” with the CNS head? Was it on the phone, or face to face? I am not asking who these persons were. If Mr Sharma felt free and protected by law, he would have told the public since this is a matter of high public interest.
I can still ask. Did the authorities tell Mr Sharma not to disclose their names? If not, does Mr Sharma fear retaliation if he should disclose? Is he censoring himself because he believes that the authorities serve an elected democracy?
One thing this incident does in my opinion is to prove that it does not take AK 47s to put the authorities under pressure. ‘Keeping them honest’ as a TV programme was too much for the “authorities.” Moreover, the PPP supporters know, or should know that Mr Ramon Gaskin respects all that is positive in the PPP. They know too that Mr Ram calls the system to account.
The authorities seem not to disagree with Mr Sharma’s report. They have not contested it. And he does not allege that the conversation included a threat. He says only that the conversation was “concerning the content of the programme.”
So where are we? Anyone claiming to be libelled may go to the courts and sue another person.
That person may apply for an injunction to stop the ‘content’ being repeated, leaving it to the courts to decide on the reasonableness of such a restraint on publication. The court will doubtless if approached look at the constitution and the relevant legislation. All authorities with the power to engage in the high level “conversation” referred to must take the oath of office, which binds the “authority” to defend the constitution. Mr Sharma himself is not bound by such an oath. My next statement may outrage many.
There was no state of emergency during the dual crisis of AK-47s and high-powered illegal vigilantes. Can it be that the government now senses a greater threat in a programme called ‘Keeping them honest’? And has there been somehow a secret unwritten state of emergency, allowing some authority to suspend the constitution secretly and out a broadcaster in fear of hidden, secretly declared, and unpleasant consequences?
It seems that Mr Sharma did not ask the authorities to send him a written memorandum. Or did they refuse to write?
There seem to be a number of shaded authorities responsible to no one, having no names or office but wielding a lot of power of coercion. This is very, very bad news.
So are we going muzzled into the next general elections?