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Issuance of licenses by Jagdeo was controversial and lacked transparency – US Human Rights Report – 22nd Apr 2013

NCN_Studios_in_GuyanaIn November 2011, the very month he was leaving the Office of the President, President Bharrat Jagdeo handed out 10 radio licenses, through which, he gave his friends and associates 15 radio frequencies. The latest United States report on Human Rights said the issuance of the licenses was controversial and lacked transparency.

The report noted that in 2011, Parliament passed a Broadcasting Law, that allowed for the establishment of a Guyana National Broadcasting Authority with a Governing Board appointed by the President, but noted observations that few of the board members had previous media experience.

The report acknowledged that the law provides for freedom of speech, including for members of the press and the Government generally respected this right and practise, however, the report noted that the Government influenced print and broadcast media and continue to exert heavy control over the content of the National Communications Network, given Government’s spokespersons extended coverage, while limiting participation of opposition figures.

On Friday last, two challenges were filed in the High Court against the granting of radio frequencies by Jagdeo. Broadcaster, Enrico Woolford, The National Media and Publishing Company, publishers of Kaieteur News, and the Guyana Media Proprietors Association are asking that the High Court quash Jagdeo’s decision. It has been claimed  that Jagdeo had signed an agreement with then opposition leader, Robert Corbin, in  May 2003, saying that no broadcast licenses would be issued until the new Broadcasting Legislation comes into effect. However, Jagdeo went ahead and granted those new frequencies, almost one year before the Broadcasting Act came into being. The Broadcasting Act came into being at the end of august 2012.

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