freedom-of-speechFreedom of Speech

A Partnership for National Unity (A.P.N.U) is committed to ensuring that there is freedom of speech in Guyana.

In a recent release by the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), in criticising the new Broadcast Bill 2011 as “ill Considered”, the GHRA objected to the Bill on many levels, but most specifically it alleged that, after signing the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights in 1977, the Government of Guyana has failed to make freedom of speech, referred to as article 19 of the Covenant, part of our laws.

A.P.N.U undertakes to rectify this oversight which has the effect of restricting freedom of speech and will address article 146 of the Constitution to expand the right to free speech more in keeping with international norms rather than restrict it as the PPP have done since 1992.

 

Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights it is stated that “freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society subject to the prescribed exceptions in the Covenant, it is applicable not only to information and ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive but to those that offend, shock, or disturb. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no democratic society”. Sunday Times V United Kingdom (no.2) judgement of the European court of human rights, 26th November 1991, series A no 217, paragraph 50.

Placing in a Broadcast Bill repressive provisions such as:

 

  1. Broadcasters must be careful not to include in their broadcast anything which offends good taste or decency or is likely to encourage racial hatred or incite crime or to lead to public disorder or to be offensive to public feeling.
  2. The licensee acting responsibly and in good faith shall ensure that any news given is presented with due accuracy and impartiality.
  3. The licensee should ensure that due responsibility is exercised with respect to the content of any religious programmes of the licensee and that in particular any such programme does not involve any abusive or derogatory treatment of the religious views and beliefs of a particular religion or religious denomination.

These provisions are internationally held as prior censorship and are repugnant to the very concept of freedom of speech.

Additionally, accepting that people who choose to become public officials must always be open to criticism, any attempt to stifle or to fetter such criticism amounts to public censorship of the most insidious kind. In the case Oberschlick V Austria judgement of the European court of human rights May 1991; the judgement contains this concept; “it would be a grave impediment to the freedom of the press if those who print or disseminate information could only do so with impunity, if they could first verify the accuracy of all statements of fact on which the criticism was based”.

It is also to be noted that, according to Lord Lester of Herne Hill, “The limits of acceptable criticism are accordingly wider with regard to a public official acting in his public capacity than in relation to a private individual.”

A.P.N.U is committed to ensuring that its Broadcast legislation is in conformity with international best practices and consistent with our treaty obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other related treaties. In that context, the flawed legislation tabled by the PPP Administration will be replaced.

Freedom of Information

Information concerning the decisions the Government make in the running of the country belongs to the people, who have a right to know how their affairs are being managed. The information, therefore, is not owned by the government.

The recently passed Access to Information legislation, by the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration, contains unacceptable provisions which are intended to withhold public information under the guise that the information on how the government is run is confidential. This is not so! The information on how the government is operating in conducting the affairs of the nation is owned by the people who have the right, in a democracy, to know if their government is managing their affairs properly.

The Government’s Access to Information legislation contains too many loopholes where information can be withheld from the public under numerous guises. It is restrictive to the extent that the media would be unable to adequately police the functioning and decision-making of the Government on behalf of the people to ensure that the citizens are properly informed as to how their country is being run.

Freedom to receive information affords the public one of the best means of discovering and forming an opinion of the ideas and attitudes of their political leaders, especially one as corrupt as this Jagdeo PPP/C Administration. It allows the people to participate in the free political debate which is at the core of the very concept of a democratic society. Denying the media and the public information on what and how decisions are made constitute a violation of all concepts of democracy.

An A.P.N.U-led, Government of National Unity, will remove the repressive legislation of the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration by Legislation which will allow true freedom of access to information and intended to make the conduct and operation of the business of Government more transparent to citizens.

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