In a newsletter currently circulating among Wemindji residents, the local radio station has been accused of banning people opposed to Chief Walter Hughboy’s administration from getting on air.

“There is a broadcast ban on our local radio,” the newsletter says.

Wemindji station manager Jacqueline Blackned responds by saying that the radio has a responsibility to present accurate information to its listeners and for legal reasons cannot encourage potential lies and false accusations to float freely over the airwaves.

“You can’t just put anything on the air,” Blackned said in an interview with The Nation. “We have to be responsible in that way.”

The newsletter, accompanied by a petition which was signed by 137 residents, alleges that the radio station gives unqualified access to Chief Walter Hughboy’s point of view, while refusing to air the other side of the story.

“While Chief Hughboy dominates Wemindji radio with his usual long speeches, obviously so no one can ask questions, he refuses to allow the broadcast of views different from his,” the newsletter says.

Johnny Georgekish, one of the signers of the petition, said he asked permission from the radio to give air time to the dissidents’ point of view.

“It seems people are saying that information was only coming from one side and people wanted the other side of the story so it would be fair to everybody,” Georgekish said.

He said he was told to speak to Blackned, the station manager.

“She told me I had to go to the (Wemindji Telecommunications Association’s) board of directors and she gave me a few phone numbers,” he said.

“I didn’t push the issue,” he added. “I figured it was useless. If anybody can pick up the phone from Toronto or Ottawa, like the Chief does, and can go on whenever he wants, why should I have to ask the board of directors?”

The Nation contacted a board director of the telecommunications association who confirmed that no one generally has to ask permission to go on the air. “People just call up and they automatically go on,” said the director, who wished to remain anonymous.

Blackned acknowledged she doesn’t normally refer people to the Board, but said that when it came to what she and others see as slanderous and vicious accusations against the Chief, she wanted the Board to make the ruling. “I didn’t want the radio station to get sued, so I referred it to the Board for a decision,” she said.

“When people call the radio we ask what they are going to talk about. If it is about hunting, or whatever, we just put them on,” Blackned said. “But in this case, what they are writing and saying about our Chief is not true. It’s false accusations.”

When asked how can she be sure the information currently going over the airwaves is itself true, Blackned said: “We know. We’ve checked around.” She added, “Walter is my brother. I’ve seen enough proof with my own eyes to know what is being said against him is false and misleading to the people.”

The dissidents also claim their public meeting on Oct. 17 was never once announced over the radio.

Blackned, however, said the meeting was mentioned repeatedly over the air.

“Ten days before the election, the Chief did an interview and mentioned that there was going to be a meeting on the 17th. We kept playing that tape,” she said. “Everybody knew about that meeting. It was posted all over the community.”

Blackned added that the radio station asked the dissidents to translate their newsletter into Cree the night before the meeting. “They never showed up,” she said.