GNBA to haul errant broadcasters to court

Some errant broadcasters will soon be hauled before the courts by the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) as the Authority has already given its lawyer the green light to proceed with litigation.
However, persons are not going to be placed before the courts for broadcast content but rather for broadcasting illegally since many of them have not renewed their licenses.
“Those broadcasters who never had a broadcasting licence and are broadcasting, whose licences have expired and have not renewed their licences but are still broadcasting and those who owe the Authority millions of dollars and are refusing or failing to pay, are the ones that will be brought before the court. GNBA continues to function as a professional entity and within the parameters of the broadcasting legislation,” the GNBA said.
Additionally, the broadcast authority will be soon institutionalising the concept of “Citizen Monitoring” and this goes in tandem with the development of a research department that will be tasked with surveying listenership as well as the quality of programmes and conducting content analysis.
“There is the Monitoring and Compliance Department which monitors the airwaves and when certain infractions are identified, those infractions are forwarded to the Special Investigative Committee for further examination.”
According to the Authority, if it is decided that a fundamental breach was committed against the Broadcasting Act, then that broadcaster is summoned for a preliminary interview, where an opportunity is given for the broadcaster to refute or acknowledge the charge brought against his/her station.
Following that preliminary interview with the Special Investigative Committee, recommendations are made as to whether the broadcaster should be brought before the Hearing Committee or the Board.
Earlier this year, Reporters Without Borders for freedom of information (RSF) said that journalists in Guyana still face hurdles in executing their duties and some of the present laws that the country has implemented can land a journalist in jail despite the Constitution guaranteeing free speech and the right to information.
The RSF website says that “a Cybercrime Bill that was passed into law in July 2018 took into account amendments RSF proposed regarding provisions that could have posed a threat to press freedom if used to penalise journalists for publishing reports deemed critical of the Government or that are based on information from confidential sources. However, the bill remains imperfect. The members of the media regulatory authority are appointed directly by the President”.
According to the media advocacy body, this restricts the freedom of certain media outlets, which are denied licenses and recent attempts to improve regulation of the broadcast industry involved no consultation with any broadcasters.
It added that local journalists may be censored due to editorial or company policies and the threat remains at large that Government officials can use the laws of Guyana to persecute and prosecute journalists if their articles are not “in keeping” with how they wish the publicity to be.
This by itself, is an infringement on the rights of journalists, and in contradiction of Guyana’s Constitution, the RSF added.