LALIT sent the following letter to the IBA to suggest a rational set of criteria for the planning of political programmes.
Here it is:
31 May, 2005
Mr. Cader Kalla, Chairman,
and Board Members,
The Independent Broadcasting Authority
We write this letter in view of your meeting later today with the Radio Stations concerning political programmes and political reporting. We would like to say that the "Guidelines" the IBA has prepared unfortunately work in the direction of repressing free expression rather than encouraging constructive debate.
An electoral campaign is a time when the issue of political broadcasting becomes crucially important because fairness will contribute immensely to allowing people to vote in an informed way for a political standpoint. It is essential that the Radio Stations are free to organize debates and to report impartially on different political viewpoints.
Natural justice also obviously demands that any commercially financed media be fair to different political currents. This, the listeners, themselves, often judge very well.
However, giving fair treatment to different opinions implies that Radio Stations (and the IBA, when it is called in) have methods of judging the existence and importance of various "political standpoints" or currents of opinion.
We wish to propose that the following list of criteria be used for assisting in judging this (perhaps with a weighting system):
*Number of candidates (For example, the media would do well to recall that the MMM, although having a Prime Minister has only 29 candidates).
*Signs of the existence as a political current between elections (Certain parties pop up around Nomination Day with lists of candidates, then disappear, only to re-appear for the next general elections.)
*Duration of the political current over time.
*Number of candidates who were elected members in past National Assemblies.
*Published political opinions; a political standpoint needs to have public signs of existence, like books, pamphlets, leaflets, newspapers, magazines, a website, on political subjects.
*A history of political actions, including forums, meetings, posters, leafleting, public lectures, seminars, conferences, petitions, protests, demonstrations, legal actions.
Links with civil society, associations, trade unions, and relationships with peoples' organizations.
*A high percentage of women candidates and members.
*The party represents the voice of those without financial resources.
We are sure that your press archives and own archives will help you make the judgements necessary.
Thank you for considering whether this is not a reasonable way to proceed in judging what a "political standpoint" is. We wish to inform you that we have addressed a similar letter to the MBC.
Copies to the Electoral Commissioner, Radio Stations and the Press.