Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

News and Information from Gibraltar on Equality, Human, Gay and Social Rights

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

We call for vigilance in Govt review of Gibraltar's broadcasting services

Equality Rights Group GGR Chairman Felix Alvarez has expressed concern and “justified healthy suspicion” regarding the recently announced plans by Government to review the situation of GBC.

“Given the sudden, unconsulted and totally unannounced manner in which this review has suddenly been sprung upon all concerned, a state of alert is not only understandable but also prudent amongst Gibraltarians. Let us be quite clear, however: in itself, there is nothing wrong with reviewing the overall situation of GBC – improvements can only take place where attention is indeed paid to the various aspects of its operations. Where Gibraltar should now be vigilant, however, is with regard to whether Government will do anything at all to make GBC more independent from Government or whether any review will result in a closer control of staffing, programming or content than at present. Needless to say, GGR will monitor this situation very closely and we ask the rest of Gibraltar to pay equal attention to any possible political manipulation of this exercise in order to achieve greater Government control over essential democratic means of information. If we look back over the last half year or so following our recent change in Gibraltar’s Constitution, we must observe that not only has the padlocking of a newspaper taken place, and the self-naming of the Chief Minister as Minister for Justice as well as Minister of Finance, but also fundamental changes to the structure and influence of the Judiciary through the introduction of new legislation are on the way to becoming a reality. Additionally, we now have this! Are all these developments in such a short period of time just a coincidence? Prudence dictates we all pay close attention to what is happening before our very eyes in order to safeguard basic rights to freedom of expression and diversity of thought in this community. In the meantime, we look forward to Government’s public explanation as to its intentions on the matter, which for all we know could well introduce elements of benefit to our community.”

“In modernizing Gibraltar’s broadcasting services, and in giving credence to their democratic resolve, Government should, however, give priority to establishing the means by which politicians will be kept at a distance from any possibility of control or undue influence over what is transmitted and published by a free media. We repeat what we have been urging for a considerable time now by calling on Mr Caruana to ensure that any review of GBC should be accompanied by a review to reinforce and guarantee a free press through the establishment of a Press Complaints Commission. An independent body of this sort is necessary to guarantee not only the freedom of the press and broadcast media and restrict any possible political controls over it, but to provide professionals in the sector with the kind of safeguards required for them to do the best possible job in satisfying the public’s right to freedom of information and access to it via both the written and broadcast media, as in any modern democratic State. In view of the possible review of GBC, this body becomes even more vital in the overall protection of what is a central pillar of our democratic edifice,” Mr Alvarez concluded.