Here is the letter LALIT sent Monday to the Director of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, with a copy to all the Press and other media outlets, about the need for minimum standards of equity in coverage for democracy to operate during an electoral campaign.
Air Time: Using one’s common sense
In the context of snap general elections, and of the plethora of parties, there is obviously some difficulty about how private and public radio stations share out air-time. This is true particularly as political parties are not merely electoral creatures that exist only in terms of number of votes or number of seats in the National Assembly.
We would like to suggest guidelines that the IBA can suggest to private radios and the MBC, so that they conform to minimum standards of equity necessary in a democratic society.
The most important thing, as a radio or TV or other media, is to use one’s common sense as a guideline: but this implies that all journalists are equally well informed. So, criteria would help. If a party has, in its own name, a list of the following as its CV, it should be able to be considered as worthy of a reasonable amount of air-time.
1. Regular publications
For example, if a party has a regular publication, as LALIT does – we have a bi-monthly 30-40 page magazine that has come out in 139 times over the years (4 so far this year) – this gives the party a certain weight. We have a functioning website www.lalitmauritius.org with articles from 2004-2019 in various sections – text (news by year, as well as documents), audio, video – which also gives us a certain weight. We have brought out over 100 editions of print newspapers, sold by the thousand. We have also brought out a number of whole books of some 200-pages, over time on Mauritian politics – on topics as varied as Chagos, the Best Loser System, the State, Class, and so on.
2. Real Actions
Since the last elections, as a party, LALIT has held a well-publicized International Conference on Chagos and Diego Garcia.
Over the past 15 months, we have held two street marches on the housing issue, each attended by hundreds of people from all over the main Island of the Republic of Mauritius.
We have held a poster campaign (2015) for the peoples’ language Kreol to no longer be banned in Parliament.
We have distributed hundreds of copies of a 40-page program on the drugs issue to all those working on this issue in the field.
We held an Open Conference on The State of the Arts (2016).
We held a 2018 Symposium on 50 Years of Independence, after a public call for papers.
3. A history of Taking Political Stands
A glance at the News archives on our site gives the stands LALIT has taken over the past 5 years since the last General Elections. For a party to take stands, this implies work within the party towards a common understanding.
4. More than one Spokesperson
LALIT, unlike most mainstream parties, usually has six or so regular spokespersons –at present for example, Ram Seegobin, Alain Ah-Vee, Rajni Lallah, Rada Kistnasamy, Ragini Kistnasamy and myself, the undersigned. We give statements to the media, and have done for over 40 years.
Unlike any other party LALIT has, for the coming general elections, already launched its 56-page PROGRAM.
In addition, we have literally dozens of programmatic booklets on issues like women’s liberation, freedom, labour laws, education, language issues, the drugs issue, and so on.
6. A History of Not representing communal interests
LALIT is not a sectarian, ethno-religious or communal organization, and has proven this over decades.
This list of criteria, with different weighting, could then be made public. Following such guidelines would probably make parties like Les Verts/Fraternelles, Rezistans & Alternative and us, LALIT, stand out from the rest of the non-Parliamentary parties. This does not mean the others should get no air-time, but that they may get less if they do not fulfill these criteria.
But, the IBA and the media should not just “deklar bet” as if it is impossible to distinguish amongst the dozens of parties that have registered which are worthy of airtime and which are not. Some have clearly registered as a mere precautionary measure. Others have yet to prove themselves as existing.
The written press, though free from state supervision, as indeed it should be, should also perhaps follow more transparent guidelines, either individually or as a corps de métier.
Copies: Radio/TV Stations, including MBC
Note: correct for automatic spell-check errors on 16 Oct 2019