Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

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

Monday, June 11, 2007

Government's proposed Housing Bill is just 'business as usual'

Directing itself to both unmarried heterosexual couples and gays, Equality Rights Group GGR has today said that, as far as these groups’ interests are concerned, Government’s proposed Housing Bill is “nothing more than business as usual.” GGR openly criticises Government “when it implies through provisions under section 12 of this new law that gays and unmarried straight couples need not apply: you must be both heterosexual and married if you are to have any housing rights all. For Mr Caruana it’s either take it or leave it, do as I tell you or don’t bother to apply!”

“In effect, in this new law, the Gibraltar Government has gone out of its way to make sure that any innovation in the housing sector excludes these specific citizens from any possible benefits! In particular, plans put forward for the establishment of a “Housing Advisory Council” to supposedly assess and keep under review the housing market in Gibraltar means absolutely nothing to any of you: you will continue to be considered outside the eligibility criteria for Government housing and, as such, you are complete and utter non-entities for the purposes of the law.”

The statement continues by pointing out that “the new Housing Bill does nothing in terms of rectifying prejudice and discrimination from operating in the private housing market either, since gays and lesbians in Gibraltar are in no way protected under Gibraltar law from discrimination with regard to obtaining goods or services in the community – in other words, when going shopping as an ordinary consumer or checking into hotels, going into restaurants, bars etc. It is very much to the local private sector’s credit that such flagrant discrimination is not apparent on the Rock. Yet this no more satisfies the need for citizens’ equality than to say we should have no law against murder just because, mercifully, it occurs only rarely. In a modern, democratic society all citizens without exception or exclusion must be able to count on the institutions to guarantee positive rights. However much hype and spin might have been churned out by Mr Caruana and his Government, this is something that has not happened in the almost 12 years of Mr Caruana’s Government as far as sexual minority citizens are concerned, and we will not tire of reminding them, their families, their friends and all citizens who wish to see a more tolerant and equal Gibraltar that they must vote accordingly in the coming general elections.”

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.