By Willie Hamilton
Is freedom of speech at stake in Omaha Nebraska? Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate ones opinions and ideas. CTI Channel 22, Public Access Television has had a long history of programs hosted by those who practice the right of freedom of speech. These individual programs are at stake and their voices are trying to be silenced due to their views and opinions surrounding certain issues.
Some see these program hosts as outspoken activists who have negative views regarding political leaders and organizations, as well as other powers that be that are here in the city of Omaha.
There are current program hosts on CTI 22 who have for many years openly criticized the Omaha City Council members, Omaha Chief of Police, the Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska State Senator’s etc., regarding controversial issues such as; Police Misconduct and brutality, Voter suppression bills (LB239), Police Oversight, The Gang Assessment Report, Immigration, political reasons that a state senator was arrested and not charged properly, illegal guns flowing into the community and the police and fire unions contracts and the attempted but failed recall of Mayor Suttle. I could go on and on with the list of controversial issues discussed on CTI 22 but that would be redundant. I believe that the content on CTI 22 has many times affected the outcome of local elections, but that is what Public Access Television and Freedom of Speech is meant to do. For such a system to work, an informed electorate is necessary. In order to be appropriately knowledgeable, there must be no constraints on the free flow of information and ideas.
Some in the community believe the possible demise of Public Access Television will have a positive effect on certain individuals running for office who have not been represented favorably on CTI 22.
When this is all said and done, there will still be programming on Channel 22. Approximately 1 year ago, each city council member appointed 1 person to serve on an advisory board who will be responsible for the new format and the new programming which will be PEG (Public, Education, Governmental Access) programming. This will begin March 1, 2013.
None of the selected advisory board members were hosts from CTI 22. There were hosts from Channels 17, 18 and 109 who were selected to serve on this board. I would also like to note that there has been no Latino representation on this advisory board even though CTI 22 has 7 or 8 weekly programs that are hosted by persons from the Latino/Latina community.
Because of the lack of transparency on the part of the City and the advisory board and the non-existent community input, it leaves us with the perception that this is politically motivated and this is all about shutting down our voices.
At the top of this article, I asked the question “Is freedom of speech at stake in Omaha Nebraska”? I answer that with a resounding YES. Not only here in Omaha, but across the United States. Evidence will show how public access is being taken away in numerous cities across this country. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference and everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice (Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights).