I had a friend who used to say; “Things happen so things can happen.” I am waiting to see what will happen in response to the government’s decision to shut Sharma’s television station (Channel 6) down for four months. I have heard what people in the rum shops and various watering holes have said should happen. I have gotten calls from furious, sometimes hysterical members of the public stating what they wish would happen. Personally I too have my wish list of things that I feel would be an appropriate response to what in my opinion is an affront to free speech in Guyana, but I shall wait and watch to see what people will do.
Elections have consequences, and if as a people we have not come to realize this, then God Help us. What happened at the Office of the President on Friday in my opinion was not an act by a petulant Information Minister/Head of State, (as some would like to think). This was a carefully designed strategy to silence the voices of dissent in Guyana. Take one look at the programming on Channel Six and you can see why as we approach national and regional elections, the communists trained leaders of this country want him off the air. There will be no Facing the Nation; the AFC will not get their airtime, and other commentators who use Channel Six to speak truth to power will now been silenced. With the PPP effectively controlling the airwaves, the two independent dailies, Kaieteur News and Stabroek News are now the only two outlets left for persons and groups that are in opposition to this regime to get their message out.
I see this not only as silencing a media outlet that is unfriendly to the government, but as a warning to other media houses to keep in line. We must not allow this type of intimidation to go unchecked, this must not happen. What was Mr Sharma’s crime that warranted this draconian response and what about his employees that the PPP have now sent to the unemployment lines? This is the type of high-handed governance that we get with one party rule. Mr Sharma has a large and dedicated viewership that can send a message to this regime both at the ballot box and economically. This is one of those times where people power must send a message. Could you imagine President Obama taking Fox News (an anti Obama/Democratic Party channel) off the air? The Tea Party and the Republicans activists would take to the street; they would march on the White House and use their economic and political leverage to send a message to the President. They would boycott businesses that are sympathetic to the regime, and Republican businessmen and women would withhold ads from pro-government media outlets.
The reason why the media is called the fourth estate is because it is that unofficial arm that keeps the executive, legislature and the judicial branch of government in check. The media is the seeker of the truth and the voice of the people when they have no voice. That the PPP government would pull such a stunt mere weeks before an election shows that they don’t care about their image and they don’t care what the thousands of Channel Six viewers think about them (the PPP). This is the way they have governed for the last nineteen years; this is the type of insensitivity and callous disregard for the small man that has saddled us with 16% VAT, one government controlled radio station and the other ills that stagnate growth and development. The PPP just don’t care, and because there are no consequences for their actions they keep doing what they are doing.
Like my friend used to say; “things happen so things could happen.” I don’t know what will happen; I don’t know what the level of activism that this travesty will unleash will be. What I do know is that if this type of action goes unchecked, today it is Sharma, and tomorrow it could be one of the independent dailies or the Demerara Waves online news network. The time has come for us to take our country back.