In 1946, at its very first session, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 59(I) which states ‘Freedom of information is a fundamental human right’. The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, in his 1995 Report to the UN Commission on Human Rights, addressed the importance of upholding this particular ‘human right’, stating: ‘Freedom will be bereft of all effectiveness if the people have no access to information. Access to information is basic to the democratic way of life. The tendency to withhold information from the people at large is therefore to be strongly checked.’
While Resolution 59(1) refers specifically to information held by public authorities, it can also be applied to other forms of information such as expressions of opinion – dissenting or otherwise.
Additionally, the Constitution of the Republic of Guyana (Article 146(1)) mirrors this UN Resolution directing: ‘Except with his consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference and freedom from interference with his correspondence.’
The continued refusal to remove the ‘one TV station’ practice in Linden is in direct contravention of this United Nations Resolution and Article 146(1) of Guyana’s Constitution. As such, Region 10 residents continue to have their ‘fundamental human right’ and ‘constitutional right’ violated.
As I have stated in a previous letter, every effort was made by the previous PPP government to frustrate efforts to set up relay towers which would extend signals to Linden by CNS 6 and other broadcasters. Restrictions had also been placed on cable TV providers who had been warned not to extend their signals beyond specified boundaries or face having their licences suspended.
This continued behaviour can be interpreted as a clear-cut act of censorship which – in this case – refers to the control of the information and ideas circulated within a society. A democratic government does not seek to practice censorship but oppressive governments do. So, the question has to be asked: how does the present government wish to be perceived?
I hold out the hope that soon residents of Region 10 will be able to enjoy a privilege enjoyed by citizens living elsewhere in Guyana.