October 15, 2021

Facing international criticism, Guyana government reiterates position on press freedom

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Close up of Censored press text with stampFrom Caribbean360

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – The Guyana government facing international criticism over allegations that Attorney General Anil Nandlall had threatened the safety of journalists at a daily newspaper, has reiterated its position on press freedom in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.

“Indeed, we regard press freedom as a fundamental freedom and right which is enshrined in the Constitution of Guyana.

“We view freedom of the press as the cornerstone of our democracy. In recognition of the fact that prior to our assumption to office, freedom of the press and indeed, free expression as a whole was denied to the citizenry, we have worked tirelessly over the years to create an atmosphere which is conducive to an environment where freedom of thought, expression and freedom of the press can flourish,” the government said in a statement.

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) has expressed “deep concern” over a recorded phone call in which Nandlall has been identified as the person suggesting that staff members of the daily Kaieteur News risked deadly reprisal if the paper continued its critical reporting.

Late last month, the newspaper published the recording and a written transcript of what it said was a phone call made by Nandlall to one of the paper’s senior reporters.

IPI said that Nandlall has not denied that the call took place and Guyanese media have widely reported the voice to be his.

Guyana’s two main opposition parties, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC), have called for Nandlall’s resignation in response to the recording.

The Guyana Press Association (GPA) in a statement termed the comments “reckless, irresponsible and outrageous”, and demanded that the government condemn them.

In its statement, the Guyana government said that its policy over the years is reflected in the fact that over 20 television stations have established operations, two privately owned daily newspapers enjoying national circulation have been added to two which were in existence, one being owned by the state and one that is privately owned.

“Additionally, there are numerous internet generated news agencies, disseminating news on an almost hourly basis. Significantly, the radio spectrum over which the State enjoyed a monopoly since Independence (1966), was liberated under this government and currently there are in operation, 13 radio stations, 11 of which are privately owned,” the statement said.

The government said it “does not in any form or fashion muzzle or interfere with any of the aforementioned press outfits” and that journalists attached to these media entities have equal and ready access to all members of government and indeed, to every public officer.

“This Government has never been accused of intimidating or has in any manner intimidated journalists or compromised their ability and capacity to report freely and fairly,” it said, adding that it has also signed on to “almost every major international agreement and convention which canvas, promote and protect individual rights and civil liberties”.

But the Donald Ramotar administration said “regrettably, over the years, the Kaieteur News has been engaged in an unwavering and institutionalised policy of journalism, lacking in professional and ethical tenets, but steeped in fabrications, distortions, character assassination and homophobia”.

It said “headlines are frequently enlarged and inaccurately sensationalised to scandalise issues and persons and are often times, not borne out by the stories to which they relate, even as distorted and inaccurate as those stories themselves are.

“A column within the newspaper which is supposedly satirical, bearing the colloquial caption “Dem boys seh” has been used as an instrument to publish the vilest, most libellous and homophobic sentiments of and concerning hapless citizens.”

The government statement noted the decision of Nandlall to file a lawsuit against the paper and as such said it would not comment on the matter since it is now sub judice.

“Any further commentary thereupon may be interpreted as at attempt to prejudice those proceedings. The matter is also being investigated by the Guyana Police Force.”

IMAGE: Close up of Censored press text with stamp

For more on this story go to: http://www.caribbean360.com/news/facing-international-criticism-guyana-government-reiterates-position-on-press-freedom#ixzz3I6c31Hgj


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