The State newspaper reported on September 10, 2017, that the President David Granger has assented to the Bill, effectively making the contentious provisions enforceable.
However, on September 9, the Department of Public Information headed by Imran Khan released a statement explicitly stating that the President has not yet assented to the Bill.
When asked for a clarification on Monday, the Prime Minister pleaded ignorance.
When asked if he is not in charge of the broadcasting sector, Nagamootoo said he would prefer for the President to make a pronouncement on the matter.
The last published gazette was on September 9 and it does not contain details of the President’s assent to the Broadcasting Bill.
Despite massive protest from the private broadcasters, Government hurriedly passed the Bill in the National Assembly before the August recess.
International and local organizations have condemned the Bill and urged the President to withhold his consent to allow consultations with broadcasters who stand to lose big once the Bill becomes law.
The contentious amendments include a provision requiring private broadcasters to allocate, free of charge, up to 60 minutes of public service programming daily. Additionally, the law would require all current broadcast license holders to reapply within 30 days or lose their right to broadcast.
While the Guyana Press Association (GPA) said it agreed that private broadcasters should play a role during emergencies and disasters, it highlighted the fact that the amendment would give authorities the ability to dictate time slots if they did not agree with the ones allocated by stations. Furthermore, the new legislation leaves the frequency and content of public service announcements to the discretion of the Government.
The changes define a public service broadcast as “the broadcast of a programme produced for the purpose of informing and educating the public, and promoting policies and activities of the Government that benefit the public as a whole”.
The broadcasts, which also include time for presidential addresses and disaster warnings, are to be allocated between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
Opposition lawmakers in Guyana have slammed the amendments. Former President, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, now Leader of the Opposition and General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), dubbed the changes “a threat to press freedom” and said they would force broadcasters to air Government propaganda.
On Friday, PPP/C MP, Ms. Gail Teixeira described the bill as “reckless, undemocratic in content, and an infringement on the rights of people”.
Former Attorney General, Mr. Mohabir Anil Nandlall also warned that the Bill has serious financial implications for broadcasting entities and can result in the loss of jobs for many persons if operators do not get back their license.