State Owned ZIZ Radio and TV Being Monopolized
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
People’s Action Movement
January 17, 2010
The federal elections in St. Kitts & Nevis are one week away and the political parties, including the Peoples Action Movement PAM and independent candidates are intensifying their campaigning to secure the support of the people and win their votes.
Some four political parties and approximately 26 candidates are engaged in the electioneering but only ONE political party is being allowed access to the country’s ZIZ Radio & Television stations which are owned by the government and paid for by the tax payers and advertisers in St. Kitts & Nevis.
Even before the official campaign started, the ruling Labour Party had been using and abusing the government stations, but constantly refusing to allow access to the opposition parties and candidates, not even to broadcast neither a Christmas message last December nor a simple notice for a children’s Christmas party. This is the type of behavior for which change is needed, said PAM candidate for East Basseterre, Glenroy Blanchette.
Blanchette said that last month in December, ZIZ refused to accept and broadcast the official messages for Christmas and New Years, by party leader, Mr. Lindsay Grant, advising that it would make no sense in sending them because they would be rejected.
While PAM is denied the opportunity to communicate to their people and the citizens on ZIZ Television, ZIZ Radio FM, ZIZ Radio AM and Big Wave, all four channels are being used daily by the labour party government to carry live radio and television campaign events, advertisements, notices, press conferences, meetings, call-in shows, special promotions, spot reports, press releases and statements. What is worse is that the station is still owed payments for these activities.
In addition, members of the ZIZ staff are forced into spearheading campaign related news events and broadcasts to potential voters in St. Kitts and abroad.
“This cannot be right in a so called democratic society. This cannot be acceptable if the election process is to be considered free and fair, because the right to give and receive information must be respected and allowed if our electoral system is to be considered free and fair and free from fear,” said the PAM official. “Again we tell our people, that this is another example of the type of change for which we agitate,” said Blanchette.
This should also be the type of indicator that election observers from CARICOM, OAS and the Commonwealth ought to examine when determining the quality of fairness and freeness of an election, said the East Basseterre representative.
The PAM representative continued by pointing out that the labour party has also been using numerous state assets, including vehicles, employees, equipment and services to promote their partisan campaign. Labour has used resources from government departments and ministries, including Public Works, Electricity Department, the YES Program, Tourism, Warner Park Stadium and the police force, to help implement various aspects of their party campaign.
While labour’s meetings, rallies and concerts are allowed by the police to go on for late hours into the night and the early hours of the morning, the police are constantly stopping our events at midnight and that cannot be right, said the PAM spokesman.
He also said labour should understand that the state’s resources belong to all citizens, no matter their political beliefs and support.
Meanwhile, PAM’s leader Lindsay Grant says that these actions by Prime Minister Douglas only show the extent of desperation and fear occupying the Prime Minister’s mind over the realization that labour is facing defeat at the polls after 15 long years that resulted in the highest National Debt and murder rate, in the entire history of the country, whether before or after gaining independence 26 years ago.
Grant said that once the people decide to place their confidence in his party elect a new PAM government, all this nonsense must and will stop once and for all. Grant said that it is time for Kittitians and Nevisians to tell all politicians that that the time has come for maturity in action and deed and he will be willing to demonstrate that a change will definitely come that would end such partisan practices.
Immediately after taking office, a People’s Action Movement Government will ensure that proper broadcast legislation is implemented, thus guaranteeing that the culture of no access to the opposition is immediately ended.
Grant said that despite public and private condemnation as to regards of how government continues to deny the opposition party access to ZIZ Radio and television, “some people are of the firm view that we are too tolerant and that is why we have this abuse of the airwaves by Dr Douglas and Labour. As a mater of fact, they have been saying liker us that it needs to be strongly regulated,” Grant said.
Grant noted that the refusal of the Government to grant access to the opposition is a clear case of attempting to deny the public, fair and uninterrupted access to information affording them an opportunity to make informed decisions.
“The Government is so clouded with their abuse of the state Radio and Television stations that everything must be political for their personal advantage, rather than recognizing that ZIZ has a responsibility to ensure effective and fair dissemination of information to the public,” declared Grant.
The PAM leader stressed the urgent and immediate need for the government to ensure the administering of equal and fair access to the state media through the establishment of “an independent and autonomous authority empowered by the relevant legislation to issue public, commercial and community radio and television licenses, enforce regulations, monitor compliance and increase public awareness, among other functions.”
He added that what the people of St Kitts and Nevis are witnessing a disservice by Government declaring that if continued unchecked will result in further dictatorial approach by the government which he said has long served its term.