Pressure mounts over radio licenses issue

Pressure mounts over radio licenses issue

The Donald Ramotar administration is coming under increasing pressure to issue radio licenses to those private media owners who were sidelined by former President Bharrat Jagdeo when he issued radio licenses at the end of his 12 year Presidency. The decision by Mr. Jagdeo has come under sharp criticism after the names of those granted licenses were revealed in the National Assembly by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds.

The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry has now added its voice in calling on the Government to ensure the system is a transparent one and for their to be fair play on the issuance of radio licenses.

President of the GCCI, Clinton Urling told the media on Tuesday that “we believe that the entire process was done in a not transparent manner by the former president.”

Mr. Urling said while the GCCI will not call for the licenses already issued to be revoked, there is need for a reassessment of all that were issued.

He said “We won’t call for the revocation of those licences that were issued but we would call for a review, a reassessment of those licences that were issued, from the Broadcast Authority, to take a second look and to determine based on a set of criteria  that they have based on the Act whether or not those companies that were issued the licences would have done so on fair and equitable terms in terms of meeting all the requirements of the licence and also to review some of the other applicants to hasten the process.”

Last Thursday, U.S Ambassador to Guyana Brent Hardt called on the Broadcast Authority to issue licenses to those qualified applicants.

Ambassador Hardt told a World Press Freedom Day reception that “It is now time for the Authority to do its work — to promptly review and approve qualified applicants, including many long-established media houses whose applications in various forms have been pending since the late 1990’s.”

He said such progress will contribute to what “we recognized in our recent Human Rights Report is an environment that broadly provides for freedom of expression and in which the government generally respects this right in practice”. The U.S Diplomat said the process must be fair and transparent.

Over the weekend, former Speaker of the National Assembly and former Executive Member of the People’s Progressive Party Ralph Ramkarran challenged the President Ramotar administration to put the matter behind by revoking the licenses issued.

He said “there is an urgent need to end the controversy of the licences where it is dripping daily poison against Dr. Jagdeo and the Government. There is an equally the need to end the court proceedings. The outcome would be uncertain and it would give the matter a public life of unendurable longevity.”

The Government has been carefully navigating the issue. Prime Minister Samuel Hinds recently said radio licenses ought to be issued to everyone who applies and meets the requirements. He said the issuing of the licenses by the former President was “not a matter of fairness”.

Media owners Enrico Woolford and Glen Lall have since moved to the courts on the issue. They want the court to declare that the move by Mr. Jagdeo was unfair and of no legal effect. The court is also being asked to direct the Government through the relevant agencies to issue licenses to the applicants that had made their requests years ago.

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