Friday, January 8, 2016


Letter to the editor.
09 January 2014

Dear editor,

In your front page article entitled “’Be fair and balanced media commission tells SBC”, in your issue of 09 January 2014, you quote from the report of the Media Commission deliberating on a complaint by the SNP party of SBC’s coverage of their conference as follows: “If the SBC wants to live up to the norms of impartiality as provided in Article 168(2) of the Constitution..”

As a member of the constitutional commission which deliberated publicly for many months to draft the Constitution that was ultimately approved in a referendum on 18th June 1993, allow me to quote exactly what the Constitution says in regard to a broadcasting media which the government owns or controls or provides with a contribution from the public funds, which SBC currently is:

ARTICLE 168.(1) The State shall ensure that all broadcasting media which it owns or controls or which receive a contribution from the public fund are so constituted and managed that they may operate independently of the State and of the political or other influence of other bodies, persons or political parties. (2) For the purposes of clause (1), the broadcasting media referred to in that clause shall, subject to this Constitution and any other law, afford opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views.

Nowhere does the Constitution speak about impartiality. Impartiality is expected of any news media in a democratic society when it makes an editorial judgement, whether funded by the government or not. The Constitution, however, wanted to ensure that a broadcasting media funded by the State is constituted and managed so that it operates independently of the State (government), political parties or other influences and afford opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views.

In his REPORT OF THE INQUIRY INTO THE EVENTS IN VICTORIA ON 3 OCTOBER, 2006, after the police assaulted a group of peaceful demonstrators on the precinct of the National Assembly causing grievous bodily harm to some, Judge Michael Riley, who was appointed to chair the inquiry by President James Michel, remarked that it is a reasonable perception that the Board of SBC is composed in the main of Government supporters or employees of the Government and rejected the argument put forward by the government that civil servants are the only people with the knowledge to make the board function. For this reason, Judge Riley said, as such it cannot be said that SBC was truly independent of the State. He recommended an alternative method of making appointments to the board of SBC, which involves inputs from the general the public as well as the National Assembly voting in favour of the people being appointed, who should not be civil servants. Despite his public commitment to accept without reservation the report and to implement its recommendations, President Michel has not been true to his words.

The Puppet; James Michels` Press Secretary 
Judge Riley also noted that despite the fact that Article 170 (Schedule 7) of the Constitution further imposed an obligation on the State (government) as follows: “The State (government) shall, within 12 months of coming into force of this Constitution bring the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation Act 1992 into conformity with article 168”, the government in the hands of the SPPF/Parti Lepep did nothing to bring the SBC Act 1992 into conformity with the Constitution. It was not until 2012 when I filed a case in the Constitutional Court asking the court to dismiss the existing board and appoint another board to run the broadcaster until the a new Act was passed, that a new SBC Act was passed. Sadly the new Act was new only in terms of the date it was passed and makes no provision for implementing the recommendations of Judge Riley or the constitution in respect of the independence of the board.

Until SBC becomes a public broadcaster (like the BBC) rather than just an outlet for the government and the ruling party to make one sided official propaganda rather than information, we will not have fairness nor impartiality in the news or information it disseminates. I have sent a draft new SBC Act, based on the principle of public broadcasting that has this purpose in mind to Mr Afif of the Media Commission with the view of getting the Media Commission to hold public debate on its merits. That was years ago.

 Paul Chow