Sunday, December 12, 2010

Defending the Freedom of Press

Press Release

December 8, 2010

CTV-3- News views with distress and grave concern the actions taken by the Barrow Administration against Channel 5 and Great Belize Productions, as announced by the Government Press Office on Tuesday, December 7th afternoon.

While we understand that the Prime Minister, as Head of Government, may have the authority to compel or prohibit his employees from conducting media interviews, the attempt to censor or control a private and independent media house in any way is contemptible and cannot be supported nor tolerated.

The media in Belize has made great strides toward freedom with the silent but obvious support of the Government, especially over the last ten years, and the current administration’s recent decision against Channel 5 can only be viewed as dangerous, retrogressive and an attack on our independence and right to inform the Belizean public.

CTV-3 News calls on the Government of Belize to reconsider and reverse its position, and to find, in the spirit of democracy, transparency and good governance, a more amicable way of resolving its issues with Channel 5 and Great Belize Productions.

CTV-3 News
Orange Walk Town

The People’s United Party condemns the decision by the Government of Belize “to suspend normal relations” with one of the only two National Television Stations in Belize.

This action can only be seen as a vicious attempt to stifle freedom of the press. We therefore call on the public to view this move by Government as a poorly masked attempt to suppress any criticism of Government’s action and in so doing monopolize and dictate fact based public opinion.

The PUP maintains that if there was any legitimacy to the accusations by the UDP Administration against Channel 5 and Great Belize Productions that the appropriate action should have been to lodge these complaints with the Belize Broadcasting Authority.

In effect what the Government has done is to displace the functions of the Belize Broadcasting Authority and unilaterally, without processes of the law, installed themselves as judge and jury in this matter.

The Barrow Administration’s personal campaign to try and determine what Belizeans should think is further exposed by its weak attempt to equate the Opposition and an independent private-corporate citizen, simply to advance its reign of hypocrisy and dictatorship.

We reiterate our confidence in the ability of the Belizean people to determine for themselves the competence, integrity and reliability of any news item local or international.

It has been the practice and history in Belizean journalism for reporters and media houses to operate in an atmosphere of openness.Freedom of expression is a fundamental right of every Belizean.

In a democratic and free society, even a hint of victimization and censorship must never be tolerated.Even dissenting and unflattering news items must be respected as an indispensible part of the process of openness and transparency by public officials.

We find it irreconcilable that the Government will suspend relations with Channel 5 and Great Belize Productions at a time when this station is being rewarded internationally for excellence in journalism.

The appropriate way for this UDP administration to manage dissent and disapproval is to correct their misdeeds rather than launch petty, unwarranted and extreme attacks on the media.

We stand with the Belizean people in defense of democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

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