PRESS RELEASE People's National Congress Reform Congress Place, Sophia, Georgetown, Guyana Tuesday, February 22, 2006

The PNCR rejects Government’s time wasting manoeuver to delay Implementation of Commitments by President Jagdeo

The PNCR tabled a Motion which was moved by Mr. Deryck Bernard in the National Assembly on Thursday 16th February, 2006. The Motion called on the Government to “direct that by March 3rd 2006, all state media should be obligated to provide adequate coverage of the views of all Parliamentary Parties.” The PNCR rejected, during the vote in the National Assembly, and continues to reject the notions contained in the amendments tabled by Minister Gail Teixeira and railroaded by the Government using its National Assembly majority.

The PNCR rejects the need for any further Committees of the National Assembly or elsewhere to study the needs for implementation of the measures which the President has already entered commitments to implement. We also reject the need for any further prolonged consultations with the media and / or private sector before the Government honours its commitments.

The Government has continued to shirk its responsibility for ensuring that the state-owned media carries a fair and professional coverage of political events in this country. The Government seeks to perpetuate its political advantage by prolonging and postponing the process of reform in the hope of preserving its unfair advantage into the forthcoming general elections.

The Government had agreed to these undertakings: when they accepted the Report of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting in 2001; when President Jagdeo signed the Communiqué May 6, 2003: and when the high representatives of the Government and the PNCR agreed the terms and conditions under which the state-owned media should operate.

It is the view of the PNCR that what was agreed by the Government in October 2003 is an adequate basis for action and the setting of a new Committee is nothing but another ploy to delay the implementation of the commitments made by the President and his Government.

The PNCR will not waste any time in further consultations. The Government’s bad faith is there for all to see. Indeed, whilst the Motion on Equitable Access languished on the Order Paper, the Government’s coverage of the 2006 Budget Debate was the most biased and jaundiced in the sorry history of the PPP/C Administration.

The PNCR will not be taking part in any consultations nor dignifying the proposed Committee with our presence.

The Schedule attached to the Motion which the PNCR submitted to the National Assembly set out the guiding principles which should govern equitable access to the state-owned media by all Parliamentary Parties.

These are repeated here for the nation to see.

Concrete Proposals (Schedule)
• The State media have an obligation to give full and appropriate coverage to the work of parliament and its committees.

• All programming of the nature of interviews, debates or panel discussions, and which focuses on parliamentary issues, must make allowances for the fair participation of representatives of parliamentary political parties, either during a single program or over a short period of time.

• The state media must make specific allocation of balanced broadcast of parliamentary political parties based on their parliamentary strength.

There should be a regular current affairs programme summarising the activities and presentations of the Leader of the Opposition.

• News releases by the major opposition party must be reported in appropriate form.
• The state media is obligated to cover major activities of events of opposition parties.
• Specifically, the state media shall be obligated to attend and report on press conferences and press briefings of the opposition parties.
• All programming of the nature of viewpoints must allow for the participation of representatives of political parties in accordance with a formula based on the distribution of parliamentary seats.

The opposition must have the right of reply to statements and programmes that comment on, or criticise, their positions. Specifically, the right of reply shall accompany major speeches, press conferences, and broadcasts of both the government and the majority party in a timely and similar manner.

• In accordance with the recommendation of joint committee on Radio Monopoly, Non-Partisan Boards And Broadcast Legislation, access of political parties and candidates to the State media during the election campaign period shall be based on objective and fair criteria governing allocation methods, airing times, and qualification thresholds.
• The election season is defined as the period starting four months before the constitutionally-due date of the next election.

• All parliamentary parties will be entitled to minimum of five minutes free broadcast on state media plus three minutes per seat per week for all parliamentary parties that received more than 5% of the votes at the previous elections.
• One half of the allocation will be in prime time.

• The responsibility for ensuring the state media comply with these rules and responsibilities shall rest with the Board of Directors of the State Media.
• The Boards of Directors of the state media shall file monthly reports to the National Assembly on the time allocated to political parties.
• GECOM must have special responsibilities for ensuring the state media comply with these rules and responsibilities during the election season.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Tuesday, February 22, 2006