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Government urges media to act responsibly on World Press Freedom Day

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World Press Freedom Day 2017 is being observed today (Wednesday, May 03, 2017) under the theme ‘Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies’.

According to the Government of Guyana, since the current administration assumed office two years ago, the enabling environment for journalists has undergone progressive change to allow for a strengthening of the conditions under which they operate.

The World Press Freedom Index ranked Guyana at 60, out of 180 countries; a drop from its position of 57 last year. The report completed by Reporters without Borders says “Although Guyana’s constitution guarantees free speech and the right to information, officials often use its defamation laws, which provide for fines and up to two years in jail, to silence opposition journalists,” which the government had termed as “deeply flawed.”

In its statement to mark the occasion of World Press Freedom day, the Government said the press now has the freedom and latitude to pursue, publish and broadcast whatever it wishes “without fear of hindrance or harassment.”

“In Guyana, no longer are journalists and media workers subject to physical and verbal attacks by government officials; journalists are not imprisoned in pursuit of their profession; journalists are not killed or maimed because what they print or broadcast do not meet the approval of political or other forces; media houses do not suffer from government imposed advertising blackouts, are not targeted or shut down,” the statement outlined.

It also claims that “state media are not used for vulgar propaganda or ethnic and political attacks; media workers are not subject to threats, bullyism, intimidation, victimisation or other forms of abuses.”

However, a recent letter from a Government Minister was made public in which he attempted to direct the editorial team who, according to him, gave more importance to oil findings than the swearing-in of mayors and deputy mayors in its March 31, 2017, edition of the newspaper. Over at the state-owned radio and television Network (National Communications Network), News Anchor was suspended from reading the news during her pregnancy. Those along with other instances were brought to the attention of the Guyana Press Association (GPA).

On the other hand, the Government calls on media operatives to observe the principles of the Chapultepec Declaration and be responsible, at a time when there is an explosion of fake news and misinformation. It urges that journalists avoid being lured into propagating narrow and partisan agendas which can engender hate, hostility, division and destabilisation.

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