Roseau, Dominica – April 1, 2009 ……………… At a National Consultation on the draft Broadcasting Authority Bill held recently, Minister for Information, Hon. Loreen-Bannis- Roberts told participants that contrary to what has been said in some quarters, the proposed Broadcasting Authority Bill is not about censorship or an attempt by Government to undermine free speech.
In an address to the large gathering of individuals involved in all aspects of the broadcasting industry in Dominica, Minister for Community Development, Culture, Gender Affairs and Information, Hon. Loreen Bannis-Roberts said:
“This Bill is not about censorship neither does it seek to undermine or infringe upon any of the fundamental rights and freedoms contained in Dominica’s constitution. Indeed all legislation in this country must be consistent with the constitution and there is ample evidence that the Labour Party Government stands committed to that principle.
“Accordingly, any statement made to the contrary is incorrect. There is no conspiracy by the Governments of the OECS to erase Freedom of Expression as hinted in an article in a local newspaper recently under the caption…. ‘We eh want the law’.”
In her address, the Minister also provided the justification for the draft legislation to govern broadcasting in Dominica.
“Justification for the formulation of the Broadcasting Authority Bill is embedded in the fact that broadcasting is a most useful tool in the dissemination of information and which in turn contributes to the safeguarding of democracy, promoting economic development, gender equity, nation building and strengthening the moral values of society. Since this tool is subject to abuse, such an activity cannot be left to the preferences and biases of individual broadcasters; indeed the risk and uncertainty inherent in such a course of action could be catastrophic for any society,” Hon. Bannis-Roberts stated.
The Minister referred to the call by media practitioners here for self regulation but noted the “dangers inherent in the doctrine of self-regulation” when she spoke of the prevailing global financial crisis which originated in the United States of America.
Mrs. Bannis-Roberts added that what is proposed in the Broadcasting Authority Bill is a systematic approach to ensure codes and standards of broadcasting through legislation with clear policies specifically aimed towards strengthening and development of society and which provides for the licensing of broadcasting, the setting of broadcasting standards, fair competition, accountability and transparency.
The draft Broadcasting Authority Bill, prepared by the OECS Legislative Drafting Facility, is informed by a number of policy objectives for the broadcasting systems in the OECS Member States. The objectives are:
Ø To contribute to democracy, development of society, gender equality, nation building, provision of education and strengthening the spiritual and moral values of society;
Ø To safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, social and economic fabric of the OECS Member States;
Ø To ensure plurality of news, views and information and provide a wide range of entertainment and education programmes;
Ø To cater for a broad range of services and specifically for the programming needs of children, the youth, adults, the elderly and the disabled;
Ø To encourage the development of human resources training and capacity building within the broadcasting sector, especially among historically disadvantaged groups.
The one-day National Consultation on the draft Broadcasting Authority Bill was attended by Composers, Songwriters and Publishers, Performers, Distributors, the Media among others.
Other participants included Ms. Priscilla Pacquette, State Attorney, Director of Telecommunications, Mr. Sylvester Cadette and former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Community Development, Director of Trade, Dr. Eisenhower Douglas.
The consultative process on the draft Broadcasting Authority Bill started in 2007. The Media Workers Association of Dominica (MWAD) and the Chronicle Newspaper have sent written submissions to the Ministry of Information on the proposed legislation. Other stakeholders have interacted with the Ministry on the contents of the bill with their suggestions and ideas going forward.