R.Ratnam

Stop that hate campaign! 

 

A theme that is recurrent in the MMM campaign is the alleged partiality of the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) in its coverage of the activities of the different political parties. That sustained hate campaign against the MBC and its director has reached such a level that the other day a staff member of the MBC was nearly assaulted at a rally of the MMM in constituency number 16. Paul Bérenger has been very virulent in his attacks.

Using his own legendary violent style he stated at an MMM rally in Mahebourg: “Il faudrait qu’il y ait une chaîne de télévision privée pour lui (ndlr : la MBC) infliger une raclée ! »He went on to add : « La MBC est un outil de propagande de l’Etat.Il faudrait qu’elle arrête ses abus.”(l’express, 20 Ap 10).In a leading article on Sunday last in l’express Jean Claude de l’Estrac, writing under the caption Comme à Pyongyang, attempts to make a comparison between Mauritius and Pyongyang in North Korea, a country known for its brutal dictatorship, to conclude that the monopoly of the government on the MBC is most undemocratic. The right to vote by itself is not democratic because after all people do vote also in Pyongyang. This is what is stated in the leading article: « Pour une grande majorité de Mauriciens, la télévision est la seule source d’information. Tout ce qu’ils savent de Ramgoolam est ce qu’ils voient à la télévision. Voilà pourquoi je pense que les dés sont pipés ; il n’y a pas de démocratie sans liberté de délibération ; la principale source d’information des électeurs est manipulée par les agents de Ramgoolam. Il faut arrêter de faire semblant de vivre en démocratie parce qu’on vote une fois tous les cinq ans. A Pyongyang aussi, on vote…” 

 

 

 

 What Jean Claude de l’Estrac ignores or feigns to ignore is that he would never have been able to write what he wrote in his newspaper in North Korea and that the MMM politicians would never have able to pour so many vulgar insults on the government in Pyongyang.

 

The main reason that the MBC has become a target is that it is managed with public funds and therefore the way it covers the activities must be balanced. One of the main objectives of the MBC is to broadcast news. What is newsworthy is for the editorial board of the MBC to decide. Perceptions may vary as to what is newsworthy. Mechanisms do exist to challenge, during an electoral campaign, the lack of impartiality in the coverage of the activities of parties. The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) is such an institution. However, and it is sad to have to say it, the MMM has criticized the decision of the IBA to reject a complaint lodged by it against the MBC on the issue of the broadcasting of a press conference of the MBC and the MMM.

 

Rajesh Bhagwan used very strong language to criticize the decision of the IBA with the result that the IBA intends now to sue him. One of the characteristics of the MMM has been utter disrespect for institutions and this is matter that the voters should keep in mind. Following the decision of the Privy Council in the case of electoral corruption against Ashock Jugnauth, Paul Bérenger expressed the view that the Privy Council had misunderstood the case.

 

Both Paul Bérenger and De l’Estrac have served under Sir Anerood Jugnauth when the latter was Prime Minister. They fought the 1991 elections together. Mr Nando Bodha was the director of the MBC then. He later joined the MSM of Sir Anerood Jugnauth. Can Messrs Bérenger and De L’Estrac vouch that there was no abuse made of the MBC then? If we look back in history the MMM has always attacked the alleged abuse made of the MBC by the government of the day. But the MMM in power has never attempted to give more independence to the MBC by revamping the law or even by inserting a clause in the Constitution on the independence of the director. When the MMM talks about the alleged partiality of the MBC it totally ignores the systematic campaign of some private radios against the Labour Party and its allies.

 

One cannot quibble with the right of a radio to have its own political leanings. But no radio should don the garb of independence and thrash the government for the benefit of the opposition. A radio should come up openly and say that it backing the government or the opposition. Even if the argument is taken that such and such private radio is opening up to the candidates of the government and is holding debates one still gets the impression the balance is heavily tilted in favour of the opposition. Nobody will mention that of course. The MMM seems to close its eyes on the wide benefit it is reaping from such coverage.

 

So let the MMM stop that hate campaign at which it is so good and start telling us what it will implement for the common weal if by chance it grabs power on 6 May. Indulging in attacks without any proof has been the hallmark of the MMM. We can recall the Sheikh Hossen episode. We can recall the allegations of corruption against MSM ministers including Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo. Playing sensationalism and uttering jokes like the ones Satish Boolell did on Radio One on people coming to snatch gold jewels from autopsied bodies is not the stuff the voters want to hear.

 

We want to know how the price of foodstuff will be reduced overnight as this is one of the main themes of the MMM. We want to know where is the proof that will stand the test in a court of law that government ministers are involved in drug trafficking. The mere shouting of Subutex will not suffice. We want to know how equality will be implemented. We want to know whether apart from Creole other languages will be protected by the Constitution.

 

R. Ratnam

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