Grenada’s NNP-Controlled NTRC Temporarily Silences Chime FM in a Dictatorial Manner: a Response in Defense of Freedom of Speech
By Gerry Hopkin, JD
Three days after former politician Michael Baptiste, verbally ripped into Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell, on Sunday, February 25th, while on George Grant’s Chime FM station, the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) wrote the station, asking the entity to shut down their transmitter, based on a suspect claim that Chime FM’s equipment was causing interference with aeronautical services at the Maurice Bishop International Airport.
After massive social media outcries against the NNP government’s arbitrary abuse of power and political vindictiveness on their part, the NTRC a day later called the owner of Chime FM, to inform him that the station can be put back on the air as they are now convinced that his transmitter is not the cause of the problem at MBIA.
However, before their forced reversal, the NTRC was convinced that Chime FM was the cause of the problem. Many doubt that there was ever a factual basis for this decision, as corroborated by the later decision of NTRC, to reverse their earlier unsubstantiated decision.
Many view this recent NTRC decision to take Chime FM off the air during the crucial period just before a closely fought election, as a malicious, groundless act against a radio station, which is an affront to free speech in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Many are convinced that this decision by the supposedly independent NTRC, was not based on factual details, but was motivated by political vindictiveness aimed at punishing a media outlet which aired content which the NNP regime considers as damaging to their image.
If nothing else, this latest episode in the saga of a dying regime, clearly proves three things:
1) the Keith Mitchell led administration can’t handle or stomach having the voting public hear the facts about their abuses, as were dished out by Michael Baptiste on Chime FM on Chime FM;
2) the NNP will fabricate details to create a basis for arbitrary acts of abuse of power aimed at silencing the opposition, to the detriment of basic freedom of speech principles of democracy; and
3) when people choose to rise up and let their voices be heard in defense of democratic principles, as was done here via social media, and as can be done at the ballot box on March 13th, the voices of the masses will be heard.
It should be noted that this drastic act by the Keith Mitchell and Gregory Bowen controlled NTRC, against Chime FM, came 13 days before Grenada’s general elections, scheduled for March 13th, 2018. It is also noteworthy that this incident occurred in the midst of substantive allegations that point to questionable interference by the Office of the Prime Minister and gross irregularities in the handling of voter registration matters in the nation’s Parliamentary Elections Office.
Many are thankful that there is a political party in Grenada, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), which accords the highest degree of respect to the democratic principle that the independence of the media as the Fourth Estate and defender of free speech and accountable governance, must be safeguarded at all times, especially during election campaigns.
As such, in the strongest possible terms, many are condemning this recent uncalled-for act of abuse of power to punish a media house, as indicative of the dictatorial tendencies of the NNP party and government led by an individual who has being prime minister for 18 of the last 22 years of Grenada’s history.
Further, many in Grenada are calling for the following:
1) An official explanation from the government of Grenada, detailing the basis of its decision to take Chime FM off air, in relation to established protocols and due process.
2) Responsive action on the part on the local Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG), in relation to this and previous unsubstantiated, unfair and silencing acts taken against their colleagues at Chime FM.
3) Immediate investigation of the basis of NTRC’s recent decision to take Chime FM of the air in the manner done, be conducted by the regional body, Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL).
Concerned Grenadians and friends of Grenada who believe in democracy, must ensure that such arbitrary acts of abuse of regulatory power are not ever used to silence free speech and to restrict the flow and exchange of information and opinions in Grenada and elsewhere.
May we always remember, that when a dictatorship governs with unpredictable vindictiveness and disregard of democratic principles and established protocols, freedom of speech and civil liberties would be strangled and decent investors will not venture in. Further, a government which puts people first, will never engage in such unprincipled conduct.