Freedom Radio Incorporated, a private broadcaster, under the representation of Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall has moved to the High Court to challenge Government’s newly passed Broadcast Amendment Bill 2017.
According to the Court documents, the case was filed against the State and the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) and will be heard on November 6, 2017, by the Chief Justice.
The legal suit calls for the Judicial System to pronounce on several sections of the Amendment Bill, which have been deemed a breach on the part of the rights of broadcasters in accordance to the Constitution of Guyana.
Moreover, Freedom Radio Inc. is calling for the revocation of many measures implemented by the Bill- more specifically the clause which mandates all private broadcasting entities to provide one hour of free Public Service Programmes (PSA).
Government had come under fire from stakeholders, including the International Press Association, about its mode of operation regarding the Broadcast Amendment bill, which was passed in the National Assembly a few months ago.
Part of the bill mandates that all television and radio stations provide one hour for the broadcast of Public Service Announcements (PSA).
Opposition Member of Parliament, Anil Nandlall had hinted that the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) would challenge the matter in court.
He had said that the matter would be challenged on several grounds, but particularly on ground of the licence having the same spectrum reach.
The other aspect of the legal challenge will be based on the mandatory imposition of one hour of Government service on private broadcasters’ media.
The parliamentary Opposition has maintained that the Bill in its current form is ‘unconstitutional’, and will have several implications on private broadcasters.
Under the Amendment Bill, broadcasters are not guaranteed that they would get back their licences at their original spectrum, if at all.
Broadcasters have been advised to challenge the Bill in court, because it would have far reaching repercussions that could harm their businesses.
Apart from obtaining a conservatory order, Nandlall said, those who file the court action could seek damages for breach of constitutional rights.
Private broadcast companies have since come out in criticism of the Government over the proposed bill, and had asked for deferral of its passage.
The Guyana Press Association had also criticised the Government over the proposed Broadcast Amendment Bill and had asked for a deferral as well.
Additionally, several international organisations including International Press Institute (IPI), Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), called Reporters Without Borders, also urged the President not to assent to the controversial Bill without “consultations with broadcasters, in order to take into account their recommendations”.