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Government Denies Moving Towards Silencing OBSERVER Media Group

ST JOHN’S, Antigua  –  The Antigua and Barbuda government has denied allegations that it is moving to silence the OBSERVER Media Group (OMG) and has distanced itself from the action taken by the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) to recover outstanding debts owed to it by the media group.

Earlier this week, the Chief Executive Officer of the OBSERVER Media Group, Darren Derrick, said that the APUA’s claim in the High Court for the payment of EC$1,198,598.86 from Observer Publications Limited and EC$387,500.88 from Observer Radio Limited was “an attack on the only independent media house in Antigua & Barbuda”.

Derrick said that the Group intends to appeal the High Court ruling in favour of the APUA and “have it set aside” adding that “we are very confident” the court would rule in the Group’s favour.

Information Minister Melford Nicholas, speaking at the weekly Ca

binet news briefing, told reporters that the claim by the OBSERVER Group was misleading and that the Gaston Browne led administration had no intention of silencing the media house.

“I want to be forceful in this positon – there is no such intent on behalf of the Gaston Browne administration. This commercial arrangement that must exist between the OBSERVER and APUA is separate and distinct from any issue of the government.

“If we have to come back to the public and to really discuss this matter in the measure that is required as a defence, because we are under attack with this notion that we are trying to silence the OBSERVER Media Group. We will defend our position,” the Information Minister added.

He said the media group is trying to use the public to shield it from its financial obligations and that it may be facing the consequences of not having the sweet deals it enjoyed when the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) formed the government.

“We could then argue from a political standpoint that the previous administration had given the OBSERVER Group supper in the sense of giving them gratuitous contacts with the APUA to be able to subsidise the cost of its operations.

“We could argue that,” he said, adding “it is never going to be a point where we are going to be happy with any disadvantageous light that OBSERVER media puts the government in but that does not indicate that when we respond it means we want to squelch …the OBSERVER Media Group”.

He suggested that the media group “go back to other financial institutions” in a bid to meet its obligations to the APUA.

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