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ARTICLE 19 highlights key concerns in draft broadcasting law

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is a 17 March 2009 ARTICLE 19 press release:

Dominica: Analysis of Broadcasting Law

ARTICLE 19 has prepared a Note on the draft Broadcasting Authority Act for Dominica which has been prepared by the Dominica authorities ahead of a formal consultation on the draft due to take place on 18 March 2009. A key concern with the draft Act is that it allocates the main powers over licensing and sanctioning broadcasters to the minister, rather than to an independent body.

The Note highlights a number of key concerns with the draft Act, in addition to the role of the Minister in regulating broadcasting, including the following:

- The Broadcasting Authority established under the law should be accountable to the people of Dominica through Parliament, and not to the Minister. Its independence should be guaranteed, among other things, through the appointments process for members of the Board of the Authority.

- The licensing regime should not apply to the Internet and it should be overseen by the Authority, not the Minister.

- Licensing should be based on a clear and fair set of rules that aim to promote a pluralistic broadcasting environment.

- Sanctions for breach of the law, including for content rules, should be revised to ensure that they are applied in a fair and proportionate manner.

- Consideration should be given to transforming the Dominica Broadcasting Corporation into a true public service broadcaster.

ARTICLE 19 reminds the Dominica authorities of their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect freedom of expression and urges them, in line with this obligation, to make changes to the draft Act in accordance with the detailed recommendations set out in the Note.

The Note follows on from an ARTICLE 19 mission to Dominica to participate in a civil society-led consultation on the draft Act, hosted by the Media Workers' Association of Dominica, in collaboration with the Association of Caribbean Media Workers. The official consultation was announced almost immediately after the civil society forum.

The Submission is available in English at: http://tiny.cc/wzXA2

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